Finding Your Voice
Recently I wrote a piece that, frankly, I thought either wasn’t great or was too personal. Because of my uncertainty I held off on publishing it for a few days longer than I usually do. But then I decided what the hell and hit publish.
And it took off, getting more views more rapidly than anything I’d written to date. What happened?
When I read the comments I realized that I had struck a chord and it was the personal nature of the writing that people related to. Nearly every commenter seemed to feel that we were having a meaningful conversation, which was my intent, but also the reason I held back.
I found my voice
When you’ve written as long as I have it is possible to lose perspective. Much of the writing I have done in recent years needed to conform to SEO best practices, a client’s preferred tone, etc. Unfortunately, this tends to iron out any personality in this marketing content. Just referring to it as ‘content’ is impersonal.
In hindsight, I think this is a fundamental error driven by the need for businesses to conform to the standards of other businesses. The result is a sea of bland words, a sea I contributed to in order to make money and please my clients. When I look back at this it seems so obvious.
I knew that one of my goals for writing here was not to continue that kind of writing. But much of what I’ve published is advice designed to motivate or inform. That’s fine in its place but it is not what interests me here as a reader. I’m looking for personal insights. Stories.
This is not ‘true confessions’
Another category is writing about overcoming some personal issue like addiction. I understand that ending an addiction becomes an all-encompassing thing. But there is an entire school of writing about something like kicking alcohol and there are writers who only write about that aspect of their lives.They are defined by one subject.
The challenge for a writer is to extend that learning experience into other aspects of a life. One of my obvious subjects lately has been the changes I’ve experienced as a result of our Covid year and that topic entered into the article I mentioned earlier, that resonated. But it was the positive aspects of those changes that readers respond to.
Can you practice to develop your voice?
I think the answer is yes, once you can pull back and try and see your writing as others do. When I pulled back and caught myself going into that generic corporate content voice I realized what was going on with my writing and I became determined to find my voice for this platform, even if it was messy.
I am starting, after thirty plus years of writing, to understand that this platform is a place for people to interact one on one via writing. Though there is tons of advice, self-help, and topic-specific content like coders writing about technique or new tools, for me that is not what I want to focus on. And apparently my readers agree.
I pay attention to my stats and revenue but I can’t try and make my work conform to what these things seem to tell me. If I had, I probably would not have published that article or others like it. But it seems that my voice, which I feel like I’ve regained, is what people like. Which is a beautiful thing.