In my late twenties, I taught middle school. Like many teachers, I suffered from an annual case of laryngitis. My first bout appeared on the Monday after Christmas break. Reluctant to take more time off, I tried to muscle through the illness. Two days in, I lost my voice. The pain was so bad I couldn’t even whisper.  
 
Six months ago, I met a writer who’d stopped writing. “I’ve got nothing to say,” she said, tracing circles in her empty notebook. “I mean, who am I to write about X important topic? Sure, I have thoughts, but no one wants to hear from me. Besides, I’ll probably get it wrong.” 
 
I nodded, having felt that way before. But as I watched this talented, charismatic writer sell herself short, all I could think of was that terrible case of laryngitis. 
 
She’d lost her writing voice, and it was stifling her creativity. 
 
Do you know what I mean by voice? 
 
Have setbacks, a lack of confidence, or recent events silenced you, or kept you from forming one? 
 
This month, I’m going to share my four pillars of voice and how you can use them to write your very best work. 
 
Let’s start with the basics.
 
According to agent Rachel Gardner, voice is “the expression of you on the page.” It’s the quality of writing that lets you pick a Mary Karr memoir or a Stephen King novel from a lineup of manuscripts. 
 
Some people believe voice is an ineffable quality inherent in the writer—the je ne sais quoi that makes your work distinctly yours. Most writers work their buns off to cultivate that je ne sais quoi. 
 
Truly finding and developing one requires introspection and investigation into who you are, what (and how) you write, and which writers you admire. Most importantly, it requires you to write, write, and then write some more.  
 
Your first lesson is about courage. 

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