How to discover one’s voice as a writer

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

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So I went back and was looking at some of your clips and thought, oh man, I remember these pieces, just not that you had written them. And what I think is interesting about that book is how much I can see how your voice and your style has changed. You can see the trajectory. When you look at that book—and that book is very much a product of where you were at then and the pieces you were writing then—what do you think has changed in you and how you want to approach things?

That’s a good question. That book taught me that I didn’t want to be a polemicist. And only because—again, I’m not disavowing it, I think it’s true—I’ve learned that my natural mode as a writer is storytelling, not argument. I like to thread an idea through a story so that at the end—the best is when I get an email from a reader being like, “your piece made me think this.” And I’m like, yeah I know, ‘cause I told you that. But if you don’t realize I told you that, that’s great, that’s good. I want to insidiously instill my ideas in readers. You know what I mean?

Instead of hitting them over the head with it.

It’s purely just a matter of preference, it’s not like I don’t respect that kind of writing. Some people are brilliant at that kind of writing, plenty of people. It’s just not my jam, it’s not my natural mode. And you want to write in the mode that feels most authentic, that’s how you’re going to do your best work. And also it just feels icky to write in a mode that’s not your authentic mode, you feel like you’re fronting.

Do you think it was just age, that that was what you gravitated towards then?

Well no, I think it was a process of finding your voice. I think you don’t know what kind of writer you are necessarily until you learn it by trying, by writing a lot and figuring out—Okay, what kinds of stories am I best at telling? What needs to be in play for me to do my best work? And I think as you become more experienced, you get better at recognizing which stories you’re going to be able to do a good job at. And part of the reason I did this book was that I thought it was a story. If it was someone else’s story, I’d want to tell it. Because a lot of issues I care about come into play. And it just seemed kind of insane to be like, well no, it’s disqualified because it’s my story. Maybe it should be the opposite of disqualified because if it’s your story, you know all the stuff about it.

You know how when you’re reporting, you’re pretty much always putting together stuff from different sources, and you’re doing the best you can based on all this information you’re bringing in to put together an accurate account of what you think is up? It’s very exciting when you’re writing about your own life that you’re like, I know every single thing that happened, I was there, I know the truth, insofar as my own perspective is the truth. Obviously, my mom or my former spouse would have their own take on it. Insofar as what I know, you can try to tell the exact truth. And that’s exciting. That’s a sort of slightly thrilling project, I’ve found.