Online Voice – Part 4 – What can you do to find your voice?
Truly, “Be Yourself!” is a tall and painfully vague order. I remember this advice from when I was young(er, er) and just starting to date. And before job interviews. And auditions. And. And. And.
And therein lies the problem. Sometimes who you are, really, is not readily apparent to you. Sure, you have a vague idea, but do you really know? (For instance, recently, at a friend’s wedding, the groom made a toast and described me as having a very big heart. Sure, he was drinking at the time, but descriptions like that floor me.)
We all have an image of ourselves. Further, there are things we want to project and aspects we are uncomfortable showing. And some traits which we come to value more over time. For instance, my sense of humor has only recently been any public use to me at all. Being funny isn’t something we tend to encourage in women. One of my friend’s remarked (quite profoundly, I think) that if you saw two people on a date, and it was the man who was laughing at what the woman said, it would strike you as odd. Women aren’t the ones expected to be funny. (To that effect, there’s a recent article that talks about this in the latest Scientific Mind.) I am also aware that being caustic has implications in how people perceive me. I occasionally have to make an effort not to censor myself too much to avoid those judgments.
We are frequently encouraged to stifle our personalities and silence our voices. It’s certainly been the case with some aspects of my personality and my experiences. In fact, I think for many of us, who we are, is to some extent not who we were supposed to be.
So we want to write smarter, have people believe we are [insert characteristic here (upbeat, professional, charming, together etc.)] I tried a few times to be be poised, because I think women who are, are lovely. I can’t hack it though, and it becomes really painful…
Now, how do we get to who we really are… Of course, write, write, write (Oh, noes…). Also, ask your friends what they think of you. No, really. Just tell them to tell you the stuff they like.
With regards to suggestions, let’s begin from there:
- Ask your friends how they would describe you. Try this: Your best friend meets a new co-worker that she thinks would gel perfectly with you. She says, “Oh! You have to meet my friend!” He says, “Really?! Why?” She responds, “well, she’s just like you, she’s _____. “ What would your friend say here? Use any many adjectives as you can. This will give you some idea of your positive (or, at least, enjoyable ) traits.
- Read other blogs. You’ll learn what you like, what inspires you and, as Dave Taylor notes in this brilliant tip: “One of the best ways to learn your blogging voice is to read a lot of other bloggers and ask yourself whether you’re comfortable with their writing style, whether they seem to be a friend chatting with you or some self-important twit pontificating, and which you find most appealing. Then be inspired by that and try to create a writing persona that matches what you believe are the best practices.”
- Did you particularly enjoy writing a specific post? Or feel proud of it? Look at why: is it more “like you”? Did you enjoy the way you approached it? Sometimes it’s that one post in which you find your voice.
- If you are interesting in writing content that is more intimate, more revealing, take a look at Isabella’s book recommendations and this blog post on “Blogging Yourself Home“. (With respect to journaling privately, I also enjoyed her post on “using your negative voice“.)
- Even if you don’t consider yourself “a writer”, you can find the authentic “you”. To make the process less daunting, take Matt Crowe’s advice on how to finding your voice as a blogger: “Think about what do you absolutely love doing more than anything else in life and blog about that.”
- Jean Berg-Sarauer also suggests journaling: “When you let yourself write about anything you want with no intention of ever showing your words to another living soul, it feels safe to be real. And the more you let your authentic voice come out in your private journal, the easier it will get to bring it out for your readers.”
- Additionally Jean advises that bloggers let their writing suck on initial drafts – to be cleaned up later. I understand how difficult it is to allow yourself to do so, but she’s right, it really helps. You can forget about proper spelling and grammar for a moment, and give yourself permission to leave blanks when you can’t find the words (trust me, getting stuck on trying to find that elusive word can be time-consuming and inspiration killing). You might feel like a dolt during the process (“Wow, I can’t even formulate sentences… What an idiot,” but allowing yourself to just write without censoring, just as it pours out of you can be very eye-opening – and freeing.
Note: I’ll be posting the slides for my talk tomorrow on this blog, and on Slideshare.