Content Writing - How To Find Your Unique Voice
“I long for the raised voice, the howl of rage or love.” <br />- Leslie Fiedler
If you had the attention of the world, what would you say? If you had the attention of an entire room full of people, what would you say? If you had the undivided attention of one person, who is very special to you, what would you say? How would you say it? Most important, why would you say it? What would you want them to hear in your words, from your thoughts, in your voice?
There are a million people online every day, all of them talking and talking and talking, mostly about the same things it seems, if you’re on social media. Relationships, politics, sammiches. With all that talking, how is even possible to get heard? Simple, find your voice. Your unique, clear, real, voice. Okay, off you go, have a good time.
Your content will not be content (see what I did there) if you’re writing without purpose and without a voice that is yours alone. Your content will become lost in the shuffle, your brand will blend in with the wallpaper, your company will vanish and you will die, yes, die if you don’t have a voice. Okay, that’s a bit much, but you understand what I’m saying. You can do SEO til the cows come home but, if you’re not saying something in a unique way, you’re not being heard.
Your voice is the way you see the world. The way you take in a situation and then, communicate that situation, that story, to the rest of the world. Your voice is already unique because you are the only you in the world. And now I take off my shoes put on my slippers and it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Okay, it may sound goofy with a side order of schmaltz, but it’s true. The only thing that holds us back from speaking with our true voice - is fear.
When you start writing, the first fear is; do I actually have a voice? The answer to that is yes, you absolutely do. The next fear is, can I get that voice out. The answer to that is also yes, you absolutely can. Let’s look at voice and how you get that into your content and, by the end of this bloggle, you’ll have a better understanding of your voice and how to apply it to your brand. Okay? Ok.
You want your voice, when writing content, to be conversational and easy to read and hear. Start simple, pay attention when you’re out with friends, keep an ear out for words you use, tone and rhythm. How do you react to things that upset you, make you happy, make you curious. Write these observations down. Seriously, always have a journal and pen with you if you’re writing.
When you're starting out, don’t record yourself. It’s very rare that we hear our own voices when recorded and think; “don’t I sound lovely”. Usually the first reaction is; “do I really sound like that???” followed by stopping at the nearest pawn shop to buy a gun. You don’t want to start off feeling insecure. Also, remember, the voice you’re releasing is going to be written.
Next thing to do is free write. Just sit down, put pen to page or fingers to keys and just write. When I do this, and I do it every day, I employ the pomodoro technique. It helps you work with, not against time, and because it sets a limit, it allows you more freedom to just create. When you start writing, it’s natural to look for ways not to write, this technique is great for clearing the way for you to write.
Once you've gotten into the discipline of just writing, doing the actual nuts and bolts writing, you can start to examine and apply your voice, the observations you made about your speaking, into the writing. Write an article on something you feel passionate about. Just write it in one shot, don’t edit it, just write it. Then, when you’re done, read it. Ask yourself; does my passion come out in this or am I holding back? Is this the way I would speak about this subject, or is something getting lost when translating it to the page? Do I talk like this? Answer those questions and put the article aside.
Continue with the listening to your everyday speech and writing down observations. I want to caution you here not to judge. Just listen and observe. Don’t get caught up in; I sound stupid, my friends sound smarter, I wish I said this instead of that. You’re looking for your true voice to apply to your content and, in truth, there are some not so pretty parts. You want to start right away embracing your mistakes, your faults, your goofiness, that’s what’s going to make your voice truly unique down the line.
While you’re listening and observing, think about three writers of novels, blogs, or whatever, just pick ones who are influential and inspiring to you. Reread their work and figure out why it hits you. What is it about their work that makes you remember them? Don’t copy their work, just figure out what makes them different from the rest of the writers out there. What attracts you, may not attract others, but it will give you a good idea of the kind of voice you have.
Keep pomodoro-ing every day, that never stops.
Now, it gets a little harder, a little more personal. Set the timer for 5 minutes and write a description of yourself. Throw it away. Set the timer for three minutes, describe yourself. Throw it away. Two minutes, throw it away. Then, describe yourself in three adjectives. Hold on to that. Keep that in mind when you’re writing.
Ask your friends; what do I sound like? You’re going to have to dig a little here, they will want to flatter and build you up. If that’s good for you, if all you want is praise, you’re never going to risk in your writing and without risk, what’s the point. Get them to be specific. Again, do not judge, listen and write it down.
Let’s go back now, to the first paragraph when I asked if you had the attention of one person who is special to you, what would you say? Now, I want you to concentrate on one person. I want you to think about and create your ideal reader. Are they smart and funny, dry and insightful. Describe your most perfect reader and, when you pomodoro, write to them.
Stop for a moment, maybe after you’ve done a pomodoro session and ask yourself, am I enjoying this? Are you struggling? Does it feel like work? If so, you may not be writing in your own voice still. Then again, writing may just be a bit of a struggle for you. Not every writer actually enjoys writing. Thomas Mann said; “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” This is where you decide. Do you want to keep going or do you want throw in the towel and walk away. You can keep going, strengthen the writing muscle and it will become easier. Only slightly. Anyone who tells you that you’ll get to the point where the words flow every day and you can simply dash off the perfect sentence is a lying sack. Writing, even on the best days, is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But, if you feel, under the struggle, the joy, the release, the satisfaction, I encourage you to stay with it. You decide. I’ll wait.
“My motto in life is ‘Take risks;’ you don’t have a voice if you don’t. You have to venture outside your boundaries. That’s what life is all about.” - Kelly Wearstler
Yay, you decided to stay with it and write, good for you. Now, go back to something you wrote when you first started the process of finding your voice. Read it and ask yourself, is this something that, if I came across it online, I would read. Then, and I am guessing the answer is no because our early stuff is usually not, well, it’s not … good... it’s not good is what I’m trying to say. Ask yourself, why? Why wouldn’t you read it? How would you change it? Now, look at something very recent and see how far you’ve grown. Really, see that and acknowledge that. Don’t get a big head about it but, you have to get to a point where you can look at your own work and have confidence in it.
Now, the really scary part ... have someone else read it. I know, I know … why can’t I just write and put it in a shoebox next to the valentines that I wrote for myself because no one ever sent me one and I needed to be loved even if it was just a sham, a sham I tell you … um … okay, sorry about that. Nope, you cannot hide it, you’ve got to allow it to be seen.
Do not ask; “is it good?” Ask; “does it sound like me?”
“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” - Stephen Covey
There you go, some things to think about and practice when you’re trying to find your voice. It’s a process, so be patient with yourself, keep developing it. Know why you’re writing, that’s very important and it will feed and clarify your voice.
Your voice is going to humanize your content and it is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans. This will then drive people to your brand, your website and generate those clicks and likes and follows. Those aren't the main goal though, remember that. Don’t go after the clicks, the likes, the sales. Have conversations, tell stories, speak to that one special person and the rest will gather around to hear what you’ve got to say, because you’re saying it in your own voice.