Voices from the past, in the service of voice. More advice on good writing from great writers:
Mark Twain: “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”
(Especially true when the adjective carries a judgment that should be left to the reader.)
Stephen King: “And what greater enemy of simplicity and straightforwardness than the adverb?”
(Remember? An adverb is a crutch for the wrong verb.)
Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
(Those drops can empower a voice that lets a reader know they come from a feeling writer.)
Nora Ephron: “I had been working as a journalist for nearly eight years before I could easily write in the voice that I turned out to have.”
A very good way to develop your own voice as a writer is to write, and to keep writing.
Let the words pour out.
Don’t edit as you write; forget perfection.
Editing, rewriting and polishing come later.
A writer I knew in New York put on a suit and tie every morning, to go to work.
He would have breakfast with his wife and kids, then hug them all goodbye, and then go to work — in a little room off the kitchen.
All day, every day. Writing.
Hampton Hawes, one of the finest jazz pianists in the world, never had a music lesson.
He grew up in Los Angeles, the son of a minister of a Black church; his mother was the church pianist.
As a 3-year-old sitting on her lap, he would finger the keys.
From then on, he just kept at it.
In his autobiography, “Raise Up Off Me,” he said his playing was distinctive because his fingering differed from that of players who had studied music and piano technique.
In other words, he developed his own voice.
He said he just felt himself “soul up on it.”
Now there’s a voice.
Twin Cities writing coach Gary Gilson, winner of an Emmy Award, teaches journalism at Colorado College. He can be reached through his website www.writebetterwithgary.com.