One of the hardest things for a writer to uncover is her voice, her style, her flair. Here are four safe ways to help you find it — and one dangerous.
Writers start to peel away from the crowd when they find their voice. That strong, distinctive voice that people easily recognize.
But finding your voice is no easy task. Your voice is something that emerges over time … through trial and error. This takes deliberate focus to develop.
Unfortunately, too many writers get stuck in the stage before their voice becomes strong (which I’ll explain why in the show) … and remain mediocre writers. Writers who shuffle along with crowd where careers stall.
If you want to find your voice — and develop it into a strong one that demands attention and commands respect — then this episode is for you.
In this 8-minute episode you’ll discover:
- The best cure for a lack of confidence
- How to use compliments to identify your voice
- Lessons on how to catch hell (from a petite woman behind dark sunglasses)
- The distinct pattern you’ll see emerge when you study great writers and bloggers
- How your love for conformity is ruining your growth as a great writer
- The most volatile (but most fun) way to develop your voice
The Show Notes
- Joan Didion
- The Price of Greatness
- James Altucher
- What Purple Rain Can Teach You About Effective Online Marketing
- Hugh MacLeod
- Leo Babauta
- Cat Marnell
4 Safe Ways to Find Your Voice (and One Dangerous One)
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Demian Farnworth: Hi, welcome to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I’m your host, Demian Farnworth, the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.
And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.
So this is Episode 22. It’s the final episode in our mini-series The Exceptional Writers Club. It follows hard on the heels of episodes on strategy, technique, and knowledge.
If you haven’t listened to those shows, go back when you are finished with this one.
In the meantime, today we are going to answer this question: Do you have the right voice?
Now this episode, this episode on voice, is probably the episode I’ve been really excited about doing. I mean all the other ones have been fun, but it’s here where the exceptional writer peels away from the pack.
But listen, one of the hardest things for a writer to uncover is her voice, her style, her flair. It’s hard to teach.
The Best Cure for a Lack of Confidence
The reason why, and this is not scientific, but just based upon my decade in a half experience in the field and years of mentoring young writers, what I find is that finding your voice and your flair .. is a lack of confidence …
That lack of confidence, however, I’ve learned, can be overcome. And usually it is overcome through experience.
And the best way to cure a lack of experience is to practice. There is no shortcut. You just have to get out there and churn out page after page, day in and day, do that and you will slowly uncover who you are. You’ll begin to recognize your voice and flair.
How to Use Compliments to Identify Your Voice
But there are other clues you can look for, too. Here are five.
First, find the source of your compliments — Think back to the last time you shared something you wrote with someone.
What did they compliment you on? Did they say you were funny? That you have a way of telling a story?
Just the other day our neighbor lady told my wife that she hears her voice as she reads her texts. My wife has clearly reached her voice. She is comfortable in her own skin.
When you start to see a pattern in the compliments you receive in what you write, then you can start to identify your voice. And you can start to build upon that voice.
Lessons on How to Catch Hell (From a Small Petite Woman Behind Dark Sunglasses
Number 2, find the feeling that is you — For many people writing is a process of becoming a different person.
Joan Didion said about writing, “It’s the only way I can be aggressive.” And if you know Didion is a petite woman who wears dark sunglasses.
Anyone who’s read her work understands her carnal severity. The confident voice she uses in her world. Her fearlessness in the face of adversity. The courage to catch hell.
So, what kind of person does writing allow you to become? Find it, and then dwell in it.
The Distinct Pattern You’ll See Emerge When You Study Great Writers and Bloggers
Third, find your personal Seal — In his 1995 book, The Price of Greatness, Arnold Ludwig writes that among the work of exceptional writers — bears a distinctive seal.
Winston Churchill. Leo Tolstoy. Albert Einstein. Samuel Beckett. Vincent van Gogh. Martin Luther.
They all have this distinctive personal seal. Think about some online stars.
Here’s the lesson: identify with what you do. View it as a personal extension of yourself. Invest a personal stake in your writing. And make it big.
How Your Love for Conformity Is Ruining Your Growth As a Great Writer
Fourth, be an iconoclast — Exceptional writers are usually at odds with someone. The State. The Culture. A person or process. Their style is confrontational, wild and sarcastic.
Before his death, Christopher Hitchens was one of the most feared rhetoricians — he took shots at sacred cows of society. Mother Teresa, God.
And George Orwell noted that his own work was lifeless when it wasn’t political.
Are you bucking the trend? Or are you intentionally parroting the status quo?
What you need to do is look for ways to stand out. To confront. And make it appear natural.
The Most Volatile (But Most Fun) Way to Develop Your Voice
Finally, and this is going to sound weird, so bear with me. But the fifth one to help you develop your flair, your voice is to milk your dysfunctions.
Regret. Bitterness. Pain. These are the usual responses to awful experiences. But have you ever thought of being grateful for these experiences? That because of what you have suffered you are now perfectly suited to help other people cope and fight through those same situations?
Flannery O’Connor said that if you survive the first two decades of your life then you’ll have a lifetime of writing material.
However, you can go too far in this regard.
Exhibit A: Cat Marnell. A fascinating fashion journalist who allowed her drug abuse to pull her down. It’s a sad story. She had millions of hits per articles she wrote for publications like xo Jane. She milked her dysfunctions. But she could not beat her demons.
So be careful. Milk your dysfunctions. But don’t let them master you.
Let me close with this: Have you found your voice? If so, How did you find it? Please share. In this comments. Or on Twitter. I’m @demianfarnworth.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for listening.
And until next time, take care.