There are many things I have realized as I’ve gotten older. That I was a part of the last generation to grow up without the Internet in my everyday life is one important thing (my middle-school/high-school students don’t know a world without YouTube and all the other social networks). That being an adult can be fun (I’ll have pizza for breakfast because why not??) as well as stressful (ugh, finances). But more than all those things, I have found that there is something even more important.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered is how important it is to find your own voice when it comes to creative pursuits. It’s so easy to copy someone else’s style. It already exists, so you don’t have to do much work to come up with something of your own. You like so-and-so author so you try to write with their eloquent phrasing. You love Whitney Houston’s work, so you try to sing those melismas the way she did. And you know, it’s easier than ever to do these days with the Internet and everything (well, at least, most things) being available at the touch of a button.
But if you really want to make something your own, you have to find your own expressive way with what you already have.
And that takes a lot longer than a simple Google search.
Since I am a creative person, no one has realized this more than me. After all, I spend most of my days writing and/or planning stories. And when I’m not doing that, I compose and sing songs. Only now, three years after I finished Elodie and Heloise, do I feel like I have developed something of a “style” in my writing. And when I say “style,” I mean something that makes people read my words and think, “Oh yeah, I can totally tell that this is Cecilee.”
When I started writing Elodie and Heloise back in 2012 (hard to believe it’s only been 3 years since I did that book!), I was just writing a novelization of events I’d played in my Sims 3 game. I’d written stories since I was a kid, but I didn’t have a “style” yet. I was more concerned with just getting the words on the paper. The style came about only from writing and writing and writing and, oh yeah, writing.
And that, my friends, is the key to finding your own style. By trying and seeing what happens. Experimenting. And when you do that, sure you’re going to make mistakes. But that’s how you learn.
Is it going to take work? YES. Sorry, no way to sugarcoat that. But if you really want to do it, you will. I wanted to be a writer since I was a child, so I was willing to work at it.
The same goes for my music.
See, I had this moment when I was a teenager that I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. As much as I enjoyed singing in choir and in my voice lessons, I didn’t feel like my voice fit with either the poppy stuff on the radio or the classical stuff I had to sing for Mrs. Baldwin. So I wanted to write my own songs so that I would have something I could sing. I already wrote poetry, so it didn’t seem that big of a leap to writing songs, right?
Well…… actually, yes.
The first song I wrote as a teenager was called Spencer. I was 19 when I wrote it. I still have the recording somewhere of it, recorded on my four-track machine. And I can still sing some of it (for funsies I might break it out at a concert someday if I’m asked nicely :P) but boy was it a bad song! The melody was not very good, I was trying to cram too many syllables into little space, and yeah….
Yeah I know I’m putting down that first song I wrote, but you know, it was the first of MANY songs that I wrote so that I would not only get better at songwriting, but also so that I could find my own style.
However, unlike my writing, finding my own music style took me far longer than three years.
Try more than ten years.
Remember, I wrote my first song at 19. And I’ve hit the big 3-0.
And it took years of getting my confidence and tons of bad songs to get to this point. And that will definitely be in another post (or two, or three, but most likely two lol!).
People don’t ever talk about the work that goes into making art. They think it just appears with no effort. And if you’re doing it well, then yes, it does look effortless. Watching my favorite singers, I wonder how they make it look so easy to get up in front of people and share their soul. Same with authors. But we artists, we know what goes into it. We know about the hours spent in front of the computer typing away at stories. We know about the rehearsal hours playing those songs over and over again.
And if you’re willing to put in the work, then you could do it.
Lastly, I’d love to know your thoughts on this. If you’re an artist, how long did it take you to find your voice? What did you do to help the process?