One of the greatest gifts blogging has given me is a solid sense of my writing voice. Long before the invention of blogging (I’m old, yo), I wrote poetry. I struggled and struggled to find my poetic voice, writing poems that varied wildly in style and tone. Listening to me give a poetry reading was a little bit like being in a car with a teenager trying learn how to use a stick shift.
It wasn’t pretty.
But my path to blogging allowed me to discover the natural writer that lived inside me. While I was undergoing infertility treatment, I’d come home from my near daily doctor’s appointments and shoot off long funny emails to my girlfriends letting them know what had happened. During this process I was introduced to blogs, and kaboom I found my calling, and lo and behold, my voice.
So what does a writing voice mean?
You know how you can recognize a voice (say in a voicemail) because of the tone, inflection, and pitch of that voice? A writing voice is just like that; it’s the style of writing that makes the writer’s voice distinctive. My writing voice is now so distinctive that I could never write an anonymous blog because everyone would know it was me within two posts (which means I’m not the Social Media Bitch, alas!).
So how do you go about finding the elusive writing voice? Here are some simple tips.
1. Determine WHY you are writing. I know, crazy, right? But if you know WHY, then you can think about how.
2. Think of words that describe you. How would your best friend describe you to a potential blind date? (Fine, you’re married, JUST TRY IT AS AN EXERCISE!) Those words should be similar to how you want people to describe your writing.
3. Practice writing without editing. At the time I started blogging I was already primed; I’d be doing “morning pages” where each morning I got up and wrote (on paper!) three pages without allowing myself to correct for spelling or punctuation or grammar or anything. I had to just write forward and not look back. Killing your internal editor is the very first step toward developing your voice. I no longer do the morning pages, but my internal editor is pretty much on life support at this point.
4. You know the old adage about “write what you know?” Yes, that’s good advice. But often as bloggers we are writing about things we don’t know a lot about because we’re learning as we go. So I’d say instead of what you know, write what you FEEL. Whether you’re a mom blogger talking about the first day of kindergarten or reviewing a product or sharing an experience, I don’t care much about what you know. I want to know how you are feeling, where your heart is in the equation. Emotion in writing is critical.
5. Stop being afraid. I know, this one isn’t so easy. But part of my fear about writing poetry was because I had a man I loved tell me that I was a terrible poet. Even after that ended (badly), it took me years to shake those doubts, and I’m not sure I ever did. But if I were to decide to write poetry again now, I’d attack the page with a fearlessness I never had as in my twenties.
Lastly, this is what I think. You know how you’re out with your girlfriends after a long phase of being trapped in work and family? You know how you begin to relax on that second drink (I don’t drink, so for me it’s after eating an appetizer)? You know how you start telling stories that make your friends laugh until they threaten to pee their pants? THAT. That right there. THAT’S the voice you need to use for writing. Sing it, sister!