My guest post today contains important insight from Cheryl, author of the blog Mommy Pants. Cheryl also happens to be the brain child behind The Red Dress Club, an amazing community of writers. So if there is any blogging ‘expert’ to write a post about finding your voice, it’s definitely her.
I was beyond excited. My editor had just told me he wanted me to write a column off a game I was covering.
This was big stuff. A column. With my picture next to it in the paper. And I got to write from my perspective. Put my own spin on what I saw.
Then he said, “Make sure your voice is really strong.”
Wha? I mean, I write. So aren’t I using my voice? Isn’t it coming through?
One of the most elusive concepts in writing is voice. It’s tough to define, to explain.
As I got more confident and more experienced, my true voice emerged.
Yours can, too.
Think of it this way: you’re upstairs and you hear your kids talking – arguing, playing, whatever – downstairs. You can’t see them, but you know exactly who’s saying what.
By their voice.
It’s the same with writing.
You can read someone and know who it is without looking at who the author or blogger is. If she or he has a distinctive voice, that is.
Consider these two examples from very well-known bloggers:
“And there it was: my nail bed. Bare, naked and alone in the wilderness of this cold, cruel world. I wrapped it in the comfort of four flexible BandAids, and the tip of my middle finger has been throbbing ever since.
I understand if your hiney is cringing right now. Mine is cringing, too.
“If you missed it, I’ll just sum up by saying that if you ask twitter if it’s legal to carry a smallish sort of taxidermied alligator onto a plane with you, most people will say ‘Um, no. You aren’t even allowed to bring breast milk on a plane.’ Then you’ll point out that the alligator is at least 50 years old, is wearing clothes and is missing a hand and some of them will change their mind but most will still insist he’ll be considered a weapon. Then you’ll say ‘I can’t imagine anyone seriously thinking I’d try to take over a plane using only a tiny, clothed alligator as a weapon’ and everyone on twitter will like “Really? Have you even met you? Because that sounds exactly like something you’d do.’ ”
Two completely different writers who are both very distinct in their voice. The first example is from Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. She’s homey and comforting and seems like just one of the girls. And the second is from Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, who is silly and pointed at the same time.
But how do you get there? How do you find YOUR voice?
The most important first step is to read a ton of blogs, books, magazines, newspapers – anything. What writers speak to you? Why?
Then try on different voices. Write like Ree or Jenny or any other blogger or writer you admire – but don’t hit publish, please!
Does it feel kinda weird to write like someone else? It should. Because it’s not you.
It’s not YOU.
That’s what voice is. It’s the unique way you put words together. It’s how you think, how you feel, how you sound.
Why is it so hard, then?
It takes time for all those thoughts in your head and in your heart to translate into writing. It does. It takes practice. It takes trying new things.
It can mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Taking a risk. Pushing yourself.
Here are some ideas for how you can find your voice:
Write about stuff that matters to you. Be passionate. If you’re interested and feel strongly about what you’re writing, it’ll shine through.
Consider your audience. For most of us, our readers are other moms. You don’t want your writing to be like a tech manual. Not because mothers are not smart, but because we want to relate to you. We want to connect. We want to know you.
Write like you speak. Pretend you’re telling your story to your friend. Write the same way. Then read it aloud. Does it still sound like you?
Experiment. Use descriptive language, or shorter sentences. Really think about each word.
Be confident in you. Don’t try to be someone else because it won’t seem authentic. Your readers are coming to your blog because of you and what you have to say.
Most important, remember there is no one else like you. Bring THAT to your pages and everyone will know who you are – without even looking at your name.
They’ll simply recognize your voice.