One of the more interesting conversations I had yesterday involved a matter I think somewhat often as a writer and a speaker. From the time that I was told some eighteen years ago as a writer of a seminary monthly paper that it was hard for her to edit my writing because it had the voice of my speaking, I have been at least somewhat aware of my distinctive personal voice as a writer. This statement had reinforced a previous comment I had received from a professor of mine that my voice sounded similar no matter what sort of writing I was trying to engage in, even though I had written to very different sorts of writing separately, which indicated that authorial voice was pretty dominant in my writing in retrospect.
At any rate, the discussion was interesting to me because it allowed me to reflect upon how it is that others have acquired a particular style or not. We were reading a selection of writing by someone we all happened to know that had a particular unadorned and blunt style of writing that seemed, at least to some of the people I was talking with, not to be very enthusiastic. It struck me as particularly interesting that this was a person who had a great appreciation for classic writing by authors such as Josephus, Suetonius, Cicero, Tacitus, and other writers. These were authors who, it should be noted, had a fantastic prose style in their writings that manages to carry through even in translation. One can get a sense of their voice as human beings through what they wrote so much so that it seems possible to imagine how they would be as people and to think that one would enjoy spending time with such people simply because one can imagine that they would be intelligent and charming company based on their style of communication.
This is by no means an isolated observation. A great deal of the popularity of people such as Abraham Lincoln and Jane Austen comes about because of the excellence of their prose writing. It was no doubt a great challenge for both of them to acquire this style, though we have evidence of both being voluminous writers who wrote in the midst of busy lives and not necessarily ideal circumstances whose prose allowed them to convey the excellence of their minds in wit and humor as well as insight in their prose.
Why is it hard to acquire a style that allows us to present ourselves as we are? There are a great many people who I happen to know personally who speak and write and yet whose speech and writing often fails to convey who they are as a person. There sometimes seems to be a barrier to conveying who we are in our writing and speaking, a self-consciousness that has us put on a role rather than to reveal who we are in the context of writing about or talking about something else. Ultimately, if we are communicators, it is inevitable that the nature of the communicator be an aspect of the communication that we engage in. It is not merely that we provide information to others, or instruction or insight, but also that we do so while also communicating in certain forms and manners that reveal who we are as people in how we use words and why.