When does a writer (or creator of any kind, from artist to parent to gardener) develop their true creative voice? Is it something that comes from years of immersion in other voices, of education, practice, and maturity, until they winnow out what they like best for themselves? Or are they born with it?
I don't remember when I first knew I was a writer, although looking back I can clearly see I followed the path the craft itself followed through the millennia: telling stories orally before I eventually evolved into putting words on paper. My earliest stories were mere repetitions of what I had read, mingling with influences from the world surrounding me. Since I read a lot of classic fairy tales, and my world was an enchanted wood, I tended towards telling magical stories.
But one of my most enduring memories is of the day I encountered a typewriter. It was at the house of my mother's friend, and I was given permission to use it. As I touched my fingers to the keys, I felt my soul awaken. From that moment on, I understood I was a writer. And yet, what I composed on that typewriter was not anything about fairies or singing owls. It was sheer wry humour. And as I watched the adults around me read it and laugh, I knew there wasn't anything else I wanted to do (apart from be a mother and travel the country in a gypsy wagon, reading tarot cards at country fairs, of course). Knowing you are something and wanting to be that are two different things, and I believe both can be changed. But I never wanted to change. I was hooked on the feeling I got when I sat at that typewriter and turned ordinary little words to my purpose.
The years went on and I quietly studied the craft of writing through reading, practicing, and getting a university degree in literature. My practice continued in the way it had through childhood: essentially repeating what I was reading. Which meant fantasy stories. A few times I tried humour but lost my nerve.
Recently though, I struck upon a story idea which can only be told in a wryly humorous manner. I told myself not to bother, because I am a dreamy poetic writer. But telling myself seldom works. Before I knew it, I had three chapters written within the space of three days and could not stop, even when I was nowhere near a keyboard. I don't feel necessarily confident in what I am doing (although it helped when two test readers told me it made them laugh out loud, and whatever happens I will always treasure one of them, a bluntly honest person, telling me it read "like Jane Austen crossed with Terry Pratchett".)
What I lack in confidence, though, the story itself seems to have, because I can't let it go. And so I continue on stubbornly. And this is what it feels like:
Like my true creative voice has been engaged.
So I wonder, do writers (and other creators) get a true voice along with all the other inherent things that make them grow up to be writers, and have to guard against it being lost through education, other voices, expectations? Or is it just, in the end, a matter of sheer, bloody-minded confidence?