“I’m having trouble finding my voice,” he said.
He’d written to ask me for blogging tips and when I asked what specifically he was struggling with (because blogging tips could encompass whole volumes of advice), this was his answer.
Writing something that felt like his. Something that felt conversational. Something that abandoned stilted in favor of flowing or witty or charming–or whatever voice it was that he wanted to speak in.
And so the question unfolded:
How do I find my voice as a writer?
I think we all know the standard answers to the question. Write more. Read more. Revise. Revise. Revise. As with anything in life, the more you study it and the more you do it, the better you get at it bit by bit.
But I don’t think that’s the only answer.
Because your voice isn’t just something lurking out there in the dark waiting for you to hunt it down and root it out and tame it.
It’s something you already have.
If you called your best friend or your partner or your boss right now and started talking, she’d know it was you.
Because you already have a distinct voice–and I don’t just mean the way it sounds. It’s also in the words you choose. The pauses you make. The pace of your speech. The things you find funny. The way you tell a story.
Which is why when that reader emailed to ask me for tips on finding his voice, I told him there was nothing to find. He already has a voice. The trick is putting it on the page.
And so I said to consider starting not with the blank page, but with a recording device.
What if, instead of starting with words on the page, you started by telling a story? On video or audio recording. Or, even better, on Skype to a friend.
Then, take that story exactly as you told it and write it like that first.
Once it’s on the page, you’ll probably need to polish it. Punctuate it. Clarify. Tweak. But your voice? The word choices and pauses for effect, the flow of the story how you’d tell it to a friend…they’ll be there on the page.
So, if you, like said reader, are struggling to put your voice into your blog posts, to take a story you know you tell well in real time and make it shine on paper, this is where I suggest you start.
Tell the story first. Polish second.