I gave my first blog-shop this past Friday. The seven clever and creative indie biz folks who showed up had questions about finding or developing their blogging voice.
Here’s my take on Voice:
You already have a voice.
Now, the best way to find it and develop it and solidify it—as a writer and blogger—is to write. Once you start writing and flexing and honing and toning, you’re on your way. Of course, it also helps to know what values and purpose are going to stand behind your blog. But even if you brainstorm a good raison d’etre list, the focus may shift and flex a bit as the life of your blog takes off.
Can it be scary and breath-stopping and oh-shit-ifying? Absolutely. But that’s part of the excitement!
And all of this scary excitement is the fantastic fall-out from the discoveries and surprises you make along the way as you write. Many people write without being able to see past the fog lights, i.e., without knowing exactly what is going to unfold. SURPRISE!
The benefit of starting out and being open to where you may end up, is that you allow the writer to go on an exploration with you. When a reader gets let in on experiencing the discoveries with the writers, well that is juice, juice and more juice. I.E., reader like!
Freeform writing isn’t everyone’s thing. Some people like an outline structure. Others know where they’ll end the moment they start writing. I can’t relate to this, because I work at a different frequency.
I’m the explorer writer. And I do really want to encourage the exploration and discovery side here, because blogs are logs of experience which allows a writer to put out a statement and then enjoy the trip of exploring that idea.
And if the ego side of you—think of a stern judge who doesn’t like change—starts whispering messages like “you can’t do it; this SUCKS,” just smile at the judge and keep writing. I use a little speed writing to help me scurry pass this monkey mind.
If you feel really stuck and pissy, write into the pissy-ness, e.g.: write about how horrible or boring or ungraceful you feel and I promise, you’ll pop out of it. Give yourself free reign to do and say anything when you’re writing your “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamont calls it.
For example, I have a line in a poem that came from writing into my judgment and it goes something like: “And when your poem starts to sound like German instructional copy,”—and I kept it in there.
And if—or should I say when you start asking yourself, Why would anyone want to read what I have to say when millions of people may be writing and talking about this very topic?
Answer: Because you are the only person on earth with your distinct voice.
With this in mind, blogs are a great place to unleash an idiosyncrasy, an eccentric viewpoint or whatever you have kept in the closet that only comes out at party times or with your closest friends. (I’m assuming we all understand appropriateness and context here). How much you reveal is up to you. But think about the qualities that are super unique to you and your POV and work it, baby.
What else helps with voice? Reading!
Find other blogs and read and read and rip off the elements you like. Not word-for-for of course, but find someone you can learn from, a blog that is written in a style supportive to what you’d like to do. And use that as your model or mentor. It could be the way the writer uses everyday language, or writes in short paragraphs, or is funny or casual. Trust me, everyone else is doing copy-catting. How else do we learn?
You’ll know you’ve found a mentor blog when you come upon one that rings true to you at a deep level, like when you meet a friend that speaks you language. Blog mentors will probably change and rotate over time. And, they may go from mentors to colleagues, also.
And don’t worry: You will not lose your voice and sound like someone else. It is impossible to lose your voice, especially if you anchor yourself by writing about topics you really care about. Especially if the topics support your blog’s goal-at-large (which may be how you and your business can help your chosen people).
Then there’s Just Doing It. Write, explore, play—try this topic on, a new way of writing a blog (in the voice of a character, or as a Q&A), take some risks, experiment, have some laughs.
You probably won’t have hundreds of readers at the beginning so it’s the perfect time to relax and play. If you feel really super tentative, you can keep your blog on the low-down (even anonymous, or just tell a few friends) while you steady your writing hand. There aren’t that many rules!
Your blog, like your writing, is going to be a work in progress. Enjoy the process—savor it, roll around in it and share what you’re discovering with others.
Also, your writing and blogging is going to be influenced by the ongoing art and craft of just writing, along with the people you meet, current events, trends that matter to you, new discoveries, technology twists and turns, what you had for dinner or lunch, how much sleep you had, how fast you ran, hard you worked out—in short, a little bit of everything. Honor this and indulge in it.
Most importantly: have fun in your discoveries.