Voices

Whenever I immerse myself in someone else’s work, I find that I start to sound like them. The voice in my head is fragile and easily influenced, and it doesn’t take too much for it to become someone else’s. This happens when I’m writing for public consumption, but also when I’m writing in my journal. When I look back on old entries, I can tell who I was reading a lot of at the time by the way I sound, the different tics and idiosyncrasies I take on.

Some people think that to find your own voice you should fight this instinct. But I think you’re better off leaning into it. We worry about sounding too much like someone else, but the truth is we’re all poor mimics. No matter how closely you try to become another writer, your own voice will inevitably seep through. You may not even know for sure what you sound like until you try and fail to be someone else.

It might even be that the “you” that seeps through is actually a little piece of a third person. That’s fine—in fact I’m not even sure there’s a difference. None of us is wholly original. We’re all bits and pieces of other people, but we find our originality in the infinite different combinations of others.

This doesn’t just apply to writing. Your writing becomes the average of the five people you read the most (or ten, or twenty, or a hundred), just like you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Finding your voice and finding yourself—is there even a difference?

Yours in promising I won’t forget my traditional signoff again,

Max