Let’s Do This! Write Now!
Welcome to the first post in the Let’s Write Now! Series – wherein I offer you some handy, practical information on Writing.
Today we’re going to be talking about finding your writerly voice. Lalalala! Sadly I can’t carry a tune to save my life, please don’t ever ask me to sing anything, because, well… because it would be bad. However, when it comes to holding a tune on paper – well THAT I can do. And I can help you do it, too. So let’s talk about why it’s important to find your voice, how to find it, and finally, how to use it.
Why do I need to find my voice?
What you’re wearing can make a statement about who you are, just as your body language can, or how you speak. So it makes sense that how you sound on paper can make just as big of a statement – if not an even bigger statement – about the kind of person you really are.
Say you’ve written an email to someone you’ve never met before, but who you might want to go bowling with / work for / marry, and it’s full of run-on sentences with very little punctuation and even less personality. You have to admit, even under the most ideal circumstances (“In all fairness, I always try to get to know someone before I judge them to be an idiot”), what you’ve written will affect the impression this person makes of you. You’re the coolest person ever. Maybe even the Life of the Party wherever you go. But if your email sounds like wallpaper paste, how can they tell?
Let’s get your true personality and intelligence and wit out there for everyone to see!
To be clear, I’m not saying you have to be obnoxious or overly friendly or use 12,000 exclamation marks. I’m talking about letting your personality come through naturally in whatever you’re writing. And it’s easier to do than you think.
OK you convinced me. So how do I find it?
The voice you use depends somewhat on what kind of writing you’re doing, of course. There are all kinds of “Writing” we could mention – writing for your job, creative writing, commenting on Social Media, Blogging, Graffiti…
Modifying your voice to match your audience is something we’ll be talking about in an upcoming post, but not yet. Because before you can modify your voice, you need to be clear about what that voice is.
Here are some tips to find your Voice:
Notice what your speech sounds like. You are a clever monkey. You can hold a conversation, use complete sentences and are not a sociopath (this is an assumption and a hope of mine). You understand that a conversation flows, your speech flows – and so should your words on the page. Next time you write something, take a minute to read it out loud. What does it sound like when you speak your writing? If it sounds a little flat, or the sentences don’t make sense – consider re-writing it to simply sound more conversational. You don’t have to sound like a Valley Girl (like, totally, you know?) but you also don’t have to sound like a typing manual from 1965.
What’s your personality? Do you like to use humor when you speak? Do you naturally smile when you talk to people? Of course you do. You’re charming! Intelligent! Engaging! Why not let all that come through in your writing, as well as your speech? You can do it.
Personality traits that may not translate well to the page (unless it’s REALLY your intent, so think carefully here)
-An overly negative attitude / Eyore-itis
-East Coast Fast Speak
-Loud despondent sighs at the beginning or end of sentences
-Use of the word “like” more than 5 times in one sentence
OK well actually that last one seems to be my specialty…
Think about who you’re writing for.
Who is going to read what you’re writing? Obviously you’re going to write a letter to your boss in a different style than your Guest Blog Post for HamsterAficionado.com (not actually a thing). But in both cases, don’t you think your audience would appreciate reading something that has some personality in it? And more importantly – YOUR personality?
I found my awesome voice! How do I let it loose?
Patience, patience! Let’s take baby steps here. How about the next time you send an email at work, sneak into the supply closet to read it out loud to yourself before sending. Did it sound conversational, or more like you’re playing that improv game where you can only speak in two-word sentences? Were your sentences complete? Did that last line you wrote make you laugh AND was also HR-compliant?
Or how about the next time you comment on your BFFs latest Facebook photo of her coffee. I mean cat. Did your brilliant humor come through intact, or is she likely to misinterpret your comment because you sound like you just woke up, poured a bucket of glue over your head, and it dried all over your brain, clogging up your synapses?
You don’t have to completely overhaul your writing, that’s not what this is about. It’s simply about giving your words a little more thought before you write, and making sure that what goes on the page truly represents your awesome personality. You can totally do it.
Unless you want to completely overhaul your writing. In which case, call me – we’ll have coffee to discuss.
How would you describe your Writerly Voice? What, if anything, would you like to work on in terms of writing? Leave a comment below!