Writing with "Voice"

I've been thinking about what constitutes "voice," and while I know it when I read it (think J.K. Rowling, T.S. Eliot, Dick Francis), I've never considered the issue of whether you can learn to write with it, or if it's embedded in your DNA. While browsing the bookstore the other day, I picked up a book that had an intriguing title, opened the first page, read it, and immediately, the author's voice came through loud and clear. Ah ha, I thought, and bought the book. Sharyn McCrumb's voice - sassy, sad, or outright funny - comes through as uniquely hers. All the authors on my "keeper shelf" have that certain way of telling a story that makes it uniquely hers or his. I may not like the story, but I sure liked the way it was told!

So, the question is, can you learn "voice," or are you born with it? It's probably half-and-half. The more you write, the more your own voice will evolve, if you're beyond the stage of trying to write like someone else. When you find the right fit of story and voice, the book will take off so fast, it's hard to stop writing it. Those days when twenty pages or more spring to life and your wrists are about to break off, you're writing so fast, are the days all writers crave. When I read a book with voice, it's almost as if there's this disembodied entity, whispering the story in my brain, and I'm there, in the moment, along for the ride as it happens. Those are the page-turners we tell our friends to buy, and we never lend them out because we're afraid they'll get lost. (SEP's Ain't She Sweet - keep your hands off my copy!)

How do we find our own voice? Write. Write some more. Drag your voice out from wherever it's been hiding, and tell it to get a life of its own. It will, if you care passionately about the work.