found via Pinterest
This is a post by Jess Morrow, who uses writing as a tool to help find your voice. Here she tells you what that means, and how to make yours (metaphorically) sing.
“Be yourself:” it’s the golden rule, the failsafe piece of advice you’ve heard a hundred times from every coach or online guru or marketing expert, everywhere. We’re told that if we’re genuine and authentic, then the rest will simply follow with ease. (“The rest” being, of course, your great life’s work and its undeniable success).
So what happens when you’ve made the brave decision to be true to who you are, and you’ve brought that genuine you to the table, and it still feels like you’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere? You’ve admitted to the world that you can’t stand coconut, you were born in a barn, you secretly hate dogs, you have a unique talent for riding a unicycle, etc: you’ve been courageous, you’ve shared factoids that demonstrate the authentic YOU. You’re out there now, right? And isn’t it fantastic—so very liberating to recognize and celebrate and brag about just exactly who you truly are?
Yes, it feels so good to tell the truth. Telling secrets is like taking a long, cool drink of champagne: tasty, surprisingly bubbly, and (without a doubt) intoxicating.
So—you’re dizzy-drunk on how it felt to take the be-yourself advice, aren’t you? You’re doing it, and you’re rocking it out. (How can you not rock it out, when you’re being honest & real?)
The ingredient that so many bloggers, artists, and entrepreneurs tend to overlook is voice. You can tell all your unique-to-you truths and stories, and still not stand out from the crowd; this usually happens when we’re really not writing from our own center.
It gets confusing and tricky for entrepreneurs to support their work with writing—especially when writing is not your primary “craft” or “trade.” That’s why so many of us end up “parroting.” Naturally, we emulate successful artists, people with creative careers we admire and credentials we aspire to. We emulate business models and blog layouts that work—and there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s smart to look to successful people for inspiration and ideas.
But the emulation/admiration/inspiration piece can only carry us so far. One place where imitation can become painfully apparent is in our blog posts, advertising copy, and newsletters—in our writing.
Nobody (well, nobody cool, at least) “parrots” other writers on purpose. But if you read someone’s blog or newsletter every day, it becomes very easy to start writing like that person without even knowing you’re doing it.
Your reading audience may not notice it, either—they probably won’t identify that other blogger that you’ve started unconsciously sounding like. What they will notice is a flatness to your writing. They may not be able to put their finger on what’s “wrong” with your copy or your newsletters. Nothing is wrong with them exactly; they just sound forced … because they aren’t really you.
You can be as factually honest as is humanly possible, but if you’re unconsciously parroting other writers and bloggers, then you’re not being artistically honest. Readers feel that lack of honesty.
And if you want to succeed—as an artist, as an entrepreneur, as you—you will have to do some writing. Even if the writing is minimal—a blog post once a week; a bit of advertising copy; a monthly newsletter—it still matters.
You need your personality to jump off the page; you need to pop on screen with every sentence you craft. You need your audience to recognize your voice, and you need that voice to represent the one and only genuine, true you.
Even if you don’t think that you’re a writer, or don’t want to be a writer, there are still tools and tricks you can use when crafting a bio, advertising copy, or a newsletter. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Record yourself talking. Plug a microphone into your computer, or buy a cheap tape recorder. Then hit record and start talking out loud about whatever it is you need to write. (Writing a bio? Talk about you! Ad copy? Talk all about your product.) Let a little time pass (trust me, this helps), then listen back to your recording. When I do this, I usually listen to about two minutes of awkward rambling, and then suddenly I strike gold—I hear that eloquent, true, and perfect sentence that came out of my mouth. And I write it down. And I use that to start my writing off. (You can also use your recordings to listen for unique words you use all the time in your every- day speech, or to work at defining and refining your personal tone).
2. Free-write … and then study your free-writes. This is something I’m always urging my writing students to do. Free-writing (that’s writing nonstop, no backspace, no editing, usually for a set amount of time) brings out your voice in the most natural of ways. Try free-writing for five or ten minutes every day for a week or so, and then look over your work. Take a pen or marker of a different color, go through what you’ve written, and circle or highlight words or phrases you use often—especially those which you don’t usually see in the work of other writers.
3. Try writing the same message (pick something easy, so you don’t have to worry about making interesting content—write about what you did last summer), to three or four very different people or audiences. You might write it as you’d tell it to your mother, then write it as you’d tell it to your boss, your partner, your parakeet … you get the idea. You’ll find that these versions of the same story come out very differently depending on your audience. But one way to refine and define your unique voice is by going through these variations on a theme, and circling or noting what stays the same, across the board, no matter whom you’re writing to. Those are the qualities that are totally unique to you; these are the things that belong in everything you write.
4. Hire a writing coach, join an online writing e-course or writer’s circle, or simply designate a “writing buddy” you trust to share your stuff with. Almost without fail, a second set of eyes is bound to discover something in your work that you could polish up so it makes you truly shine.
These are just a few suggestions that I give frequently to my own students and clients. There are lots of other ways to “find your voice” and draw it into everything you write. My personal advice, from experience, is that the very best way to find it is to write—write a lot—write every day, and keep writing, no matter what. Your voice grows authentically through that process.
When you’re centered in yourself, and not thinking too hard about the actual act of writing, your voice will flow with grace and ease. People who come across your website will stop and take a longer look because you don’t sound like anyone else out there. And that, my friends, is how your voice will lead
you to success.
Jess Morrow is a poet, teacher, & renegade dreamer who lives, writes, plays the piano & indulges her love of words in and around the city of Detroit. Her blog, Invincible Summer is dedicated to helping women discover their voices through writing as they learn to live each day as a work of art. She runs online creative writing e-courses for women, and creates other products to help artists write more truthfully, dangerously and lusciously. Jess frequently indulges her love of chocolate, shoes, stray dogs, and stacks of books she never has time to read.