I really like Bret Lott’s perspective on a writer’s voice, as expressed in a recent Fiction Writers Review interview.
“I was in class one day and simply trying to explain yet again that, as Flannery O’Connor wrote, anyone who has lived through his childhood has enough material to last the rest of his life, and seeing the students each sitting in his and her own chairs seemed an apt way to get them to understand that each of them owned a particular point of view and set of experiences, and that those were both held together right that very second in the seat each student was sitting in. That is, you already have a point of view and a story. But so very many writers want to leave that point of view and story—to walk away from themselves—in light of what looks like a better story and point of view held by a writer whose work they admire. They end up wanting to write like somebody else and about somebody else—they want to leave their own chair and go sit in someone else’s chair, a chair that looks oh-so-much-more attractive than their own. The problem with this is that the chair they wish to move into is already occupied, whether by Hemingway, or O’Connor, or Carver, or, or, or—that chair is filled. To sit in that chair would be impossible, because that chair only holds one person—it’s not a love seat. […] Lesson: Don’t leave you to go find your point of view and your story. You are all you have been given. There is going to be no out-of-chair experience coming your way. This is who you are, and from where you ought and need to write.”
Isn’t that great? Puts me in mind of that Welty quote about how “all serious daring comes from within.”
Read the complete interview here.