It’s a trendy phrase to use in an assortment of ways. . .
“I haven’t found my voice.”
“You need to find your voice to be successful.”
“Once you find your voice, things really take off.”
Any writer, or artist in general, will know the term and have heard it enough. But, after years of hearing and using these phrases, I’ve noticed something about their use that you need to be aware of:
IT IS A RECIPE FOR DOING NOTHING
As with any trend, it caught on because it has some relevance in some way, and, as with any trend, it’s constant overuse has made the actual meaning behind the message almost entirely dissipate. It has mostly become an excuse for people to keep their work out of the public, or for the more successful of us to have an easy way out when asked for advice on how to succeed.
The fact is, you don’t need to find a voice because you already have one. The problem is that you’re not actually using it. People confuse the concept of ‘voice’ with a style or characteristic way to do everything, but that too is a mistake. All the work we do will be different in some way. They will effectively be done by different people because as we age, as we grow, we change and become new ourselves.
Our voice will change with our circumstances so, it would probably be more accurate to say that you need to find ideas, not a voice. Your voice is something you own, it is undoubtedly yours, but an idea is something that cannot truly be possessed(even if some would like to try to put property rights on them). An idea cannot be claimed. Even the most revolutionary of ideas do not have a true owner. They existed before that person, and they would continue to exist after, regardless of whether they are articulated, recognized, or not. We do not create them and they do not work for us. We are the ones that work for them.
You are a vessel through which ideas choose to be articulated. If you do not do well enough, or do not do anything at all, they will move on to find someone more fit for the job. You’re not looking for a voice, and saying you are is just a way of making your lack of progress feel justifiable.
This may seem slightly pessimistic. If there is no point in trying to find your voice, and you don’t own your ideas, then what is it you have control over? How can you make progress? How can you be successful? First, there is no guarantee you will be successful. One of the best things I have ever been told is that I am not guaranteed success. It is not a ground-shaking truth, but it is one people need to hear. Too many people think they are entitled to success, well, someone needs to fail, and, chances are, that someone could be you.
The thing you are guaranteed is the effort. You are promised the right to try. And, usually, the people that care for the effort and keep trying, they are the people that become successful.
CARE. That is your x-factor, that is your role, that is what you control. Care about the ideas that come to you enough to explore them throughly. Care about your voice enough to use it to express those ideas. Care about the effort enough to keep doing it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, until you find something that feels worth it. If you find you don’t care about what you are doing, then stop. Go find something else.