Finding my third voice

My first follow-up to my recent brainstorm on the pros and cons of blogging would be to list one clear benefit: It has already helped me to find my “voice”.

What is voice? I’m not talking about anything to do with my vocal cords. I’m talking about that subtle quality of tone that a writer has and needs.

I suppose it was inevitable that, after eleven years at The Economist, I would internalize its voice and default to writing in it. Cosmopolitan and British in spelling, humor, irony and worldview. Witty, incisive and subtle at its best; snide-sounding when it goes awry. Not necessarily my voice, but by habit and daily routine my first voice.

When I wrote my book proposal, that turned out to be inadequate. That first voice was only masquerading as my authentic voice, which in fact I still had to find, or re-discover, in order to take the reader through my 200 pages. I had assumed that it would be a matter of snapping my metaphorical finger and, voilĂ , suddenly I’m writing in my own voice. Instead, it took a while longer to sound genuinely like myself and nobody else.

Where does the blog come in? I haven’t been blogging long. But already I’ve noticed that a blogger’s voice is by default ultra-casual, ultra-personal, occasionally sloppy, but always from the gut. It is not the right voice for an entire book. But it represents an antipode to my usual pole, The Economist. It is a natural second voice.

So sometimes I’m using that second voice as a sort of hooligan to rough up my first voice, a sort of Jeeves butler who needs to loosen up a bit, in order to find my third voice, which is the ideal tone for a book. After a day of writing for The Economist, I might unwind with a blog post, then forget about it and settle into a pleasant evening of writing in a tone that is genuine and relaxed but still disciplined and clean. In short, what I’ve wanted all along.
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