I’ve been writing for different online journals for a few years now and in so doing I’ve been trying to work out if I can be said to have acquired a ‘voice’ and if so, how it sounds. More to the point, do I like the way I sound? When I started my blog in February 2012 to all intents and purposes I was making it up as I went along. I knew that I should be aiming to keep a consistent tone and manner throughout; but of course over time as I became settled, my modes of expression have tended to move a little. Some questions of style still vex me; for instance my debate with myself on the matter of contractions: ‘to contract, or not to contract that is the question’. I don’t want to sound too formal and yet on the other hand I do not want my writing to sound sloppy.
My blog is mostly about books and in particular it is about a challenge that I set myself last year, to read as many of the unread books on my landing bookshelves as humanly possible. I also squeeze in other arts related posts too as I work my way around Dublin’s cultural venues and festivals. The tone of the posts may vary according to the type of book that I am writing about; I might vary between Wilfrid Owen’s war poetry and one of Paddington Bear’s regular mishaps. When I set out to write about books I decided that I didn’t want to sound like a literature lesson but on the other hand I felt (and still feel) that if you are writing about a book or poem then you have to do justice both to the work and to the writer. I hope that I can manage to this without making heavy weather of my arguments.
My writing for the Irish News Review is mainly arts and cultural reviews so despite not being trained as a journalist, I try to write in a factual arts correspondent-like tone. Originally I was determined that I should keep the INR writing in a different box from my blog writing. The trouble is that the hats tend to get a bit mixed up at times and I feel that my blog hat is triumphantly sitting on top of my columnist hat despite my best efforts. And then the blogger in me is delighted when I get a few ‘likes’ for a review or a feature on an upcoming event.
Another angle is that I enjoy writing longer pieces, such as for Hackwriters which tests my skills of research as well as my construction of a coherent article. But that’s also another voice (or should that more properly be referred to as a variation of my voice?) which needs to sound serious, in control and yet accessible. I do like to add a joke or a humorous aside here and there however, in the hope that it adds a little leavening to whatever I’m writing about. Getting the right balance is important though, as I will still want to get my points over clearly.
It’s all one rather large work in progress; I do hope it will be finished one day but at least I will have enjoyed having a go at finding my writer’s voice.