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Notes: Finding Your Writing Voice

This is an entry from my personal Journal and it was published over one year ago. It was initially only available to paying subscribers. However, as per my Income Ethics, "all non-free creative work will be made public domain within one year". So, after spending one year behind a paywall, this content is now free. Ah, sweet freedom!

Finding my writing voice is something I’ve been taking seriously since the beginning of 2010 and since then I’ve come across a few excellent sources of inspiration and guidance. I’m sharing three of those below:

It all began when I started searching for my blogging focus after reading Charlie Gilkey’s excellent post, Becoming Yourself and Growing Your Blog. (I was considering splitting my blog at that time, but Charlie’s comment on that post convinced me to focus my attention in one place.)

My two favorite paragraphs from Charlie’s post follow:

You don’t grow a blog by thinking about growing a blog or trying to figure out what you should be writing about – you grow a blog by writing, posting, receiving feedback, integrating feedback.. and writing, publishing, posting, integrating feedback… and writing, publishing, and integrating feedback.

To connect with your readers, you’ll have to develop the voice and style that is unmistakably you. And you probably won’t know who that person is unless you start writing; living is not about being – it’s about becoming. Between where you are now and where you want to go stands a lot of writing. Not thinking about writing. Not worrying about writing. Not figuring out what you’re going to write. But writing.

Next comes a post by Jeff Goins where he describes an exercise for finding your writing voice. Three of his points that have been incredibly helpful in my own journey follow:

7. Free-write. Just go nuts. Write in a way that’s most comfortable to you, without editing. Then go back and read it, asking yourself, “Do I publish stuff that sounds like this?”

8. Read something you’ve recently written, and honestly ask yourself, “Is this something I would read?” If not, you must change your voice.

9. Ask yourself: “Do I enjoy what I’m writing as I’m writing it?” If it feels like work, you may not be writing like yourself. (Caveat: Not every writer loves the act of writing, but it’s at least worth asking.)

And last but certainly not least, this article by Holly Lisle, titled Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, contains a wealth of things to try, including several games and suggestions for writing in the voice of your favorite authors. Here are my two favorite points from her article:

9. Remember that complacency is your worst enemy.

If you’re comfortable, if you’re rolling along without having to really think, if you haven’t had to challenge yourself, if you know that everyone is going to approve of what you’ve done — you’re wasting your time. Writing done from a position of comfort will never say anything worthwhile.

10. Remember that fear is your best friend.

If your heart is beating fast and your palms are sweating and your mouth is dry, you’re writing from the part of yourself that has something to say that will be worth hearing. Persevere. I’ve never written anything that I’ve really loved that didn’t have me, during many portions of the manuscript, on the edge of my seat from nerves, certain that I couldn’t carry off what I was trying to do, certain that if I did I would so embarrass myself that I’d never be able to show my face in public again — and I kept writing anyway.

At the heart of everything that you’ve ever read that moved you, touched you, changed your life, there was a writer’s fear. And a writer’s determination to say what he had to say in spite of that fear.

So be afraid. Be very afraid. And then thank your fear for telling you that what you’re doing, you’re doing right.

Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work — but not just any words or any work will do. You have to bleed a little. You have to shiver a little. You have to love a lot — love your writing, love your failures, love your courage in going on in spite of them, love every small triumph that points toward eventual success. You already have a voice. It’s beautiful, it’s unique, it’s the voice of a best-seller. Your job is to lead it from the darkest of the dark places and the deepest of the deep waters into the light of day.

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