Let me just put it out there: I hate the term Finding your writer’s voice.
I’ve included it in a bunch of recent blog posts anyway, because so many people seem to use it. But I don’t agree that you “find” your voice. That makes it seem like you misplaced it, left it in between the couch cushions, or accidentally let it fall out of your pocket while walking your dog.
I don’t think you “find” your voice. You shape it. You craft it.
And here’s what the process looks like.
Step 1: Deciding you want to write.
I almost left this out, but I think it’s important.
The first step to shaping your voice is deciding you want to write. That you have something to say. You may not know what it is yet, but you know you want to express yourself. So you intentionally make a goal to write more. And you figure out how that’s going to happen.
Step 2: Writing random stuff.
No matter how good you are, you will probably start out by writing random stuff.
Some of it will be great, and some of it will suck. Some of it will be stuff people want to read, and some of it will fall flat.
The important thing here is to just keep writing. Don’t worry about what people think. Don’t expect yourself to be good.
The only way you’ll know what you feel compelled to keep writing about is by continuing to do it.
And at this stage, it doesn’t matter if no one is reading your stuff. Because this is more about self-exploration than anything else.
Step 3: Putting your writing out there and seeing what sticks.
At some point, you’ll feel confident enough to put your writing out there. You’ll decide that you’ve written enough to want to share.
So you’ll venture out and start telling people you have a blog. You’ll figure out how to get more people to read your work.
Some things you write will be really interesting to other people, but you’ll think, I’m not that into this.
Some things you’ll love writing about, and other people will just think, Meh. I’ve heard this before.
And some things you write will speak to you and to others. That’s where your sweet spot is.
Step 4: So now you know what topics you like to write about and others like to read about. So you have your topic down. Now comes the refinement part.
Knowing what you want to write about doesn’t necessarily mean that you are aware of how you want to write it. This stage is about figuring out your unique style of writing, i.e. your writer’s voice.
This stage can look 3 different ways (okay, probably more, but these are the 3 that come to mind for me):
1. You muddle about, reading a ton of other blogs, and just writing what comes to you, until you eventually figure out a unique way of expressing yourself.
2. You are so good that you already write in a unique voice, so this part is a piece of cake.
3. You do some strategic learning, to find out how you want to present yourself in your blog. You deliberately create a voice for yourself. It may not be your definitive voice, you may change and tweak it later on, but it is intentional.
Step 5: Getting your 10,000 hours in.
Have you ever read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? If not, it’s a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, in it, he writes that the real experts practice for 10,000 hours before they become experts.
So here’s the part when you do that. You dig in. You keep writing. And bit by bit, you own your voice.
These steps are predictable. But they’re not easy. They take courage. They take honesty. They take discipline. They take openness to learning and failing and growing.
And they also take love. Because to keep doing this day after day, you really have to love the work.
Where are you in this process? And what’s one thing you can do to shape your voice today?