What Is Voice?

What is voice?

This question popped into my head after last week’s Conversations in Arts + Innovations panel. Someone asked about which medium she should use, how as professional artists we choose our medium, etc. She said she was “trying to find” her voice.

For me, voice is one of those words like love or peace–so overused that it’s come to mean absolutely nothing. And when it comes to the creative process, I think it’s a distraction that can, in its worst form, be debilitating. Too many artists say they want to “find my voice” and then flail about in their writing or painting or singing, wondering: Is this it? How about this?

But voice isn’t a destination; it’s not a lost set of car keys. You don’t one day say “A-ha! Finally: I’ve found you!” Voice, like the artistic process itself, moves and eludes.

We are human beings. Even though we love to believe that people don’t change, we actually do. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Our interests and tastes change. These changes might be nuanced, they might be imperceptible to the outside world, but they’re there nonetheless. Which means that for artists, our art changes. Yes, we might have horses we beat for a lifetime, but how we beat those horses changes. Our voice changes.

So my advice to all those concerned with voice, get comfortable with this: Change is inevitable.

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