No, seriously, do you?
It’s pretty bad. I call my dog pooneetchk baby and other ridiculous things I am embarrassed to share.
And my dog voice is only one of the many ways that I talk.
When I used to teach elementary school, I said things like Make a better choice and That was inappropriate a lot.
So much so that my students would frequently say them as well.
When I talk to my family, I also use weird words and names.
Just as an example, I call my sister Boman. (Her name is Rachel.)
When I talk to other website developers, I can say things like WordPress, HTML, and short code without batting an eye. But if I said that to some of my clients, they would think I was speaking a different language.
Defining your writer’s voice is about being authentic to you, but it’s not about writing like you talk.
You talk in so many different ways to so many different people.
And it’s not just about the words and phrases you use – you create totally different experiences for the different people in your life based on how you talk to them.
Think about the people you love, the people you’ve talked to on the phone this week.
When you anticipate talking to them, you know that you will get a certain kind of experience. And it’s not so much about how they talk, but about what they care about. And how they connect with you.
For example, when I call my friend Jo, my oldest friend whom I’ve known since I was 5 years old, I know that she will probably talk about dating in New York.
And she will probably talk to her cat a few times. And she may groan when she picks up the phone, even though she genuinely wants to talk to me. I can talk to her for hours about random stuff like what everyone in our middle school class is doing now.
When I call my friend Hagit, she will want to talk about veganism and her PhD program. She will be frustrated with the lack of guidance from her school, and she’ll laugh at most of my jokes. And when I need someone to talk to when I’m in a really dark place, I will call her first.
I am sure that you can think of a few people you talk to regularly. And you don’t call them to hear their sentence structure, but to connect.
You call for the experience.
When you write, you are creating an experience for your readers. And it’s not built on the words you use, and the sentence structure of your thoughts, but on how it makes them feel.
So don’t write like you talk. Write to deliberately give your readers an experience.
You may be thinking, Well, shit. Thanks for telling me what not to do. How does this help me again?
I would really suck if I didn’t give you some ideas on how to create that experience for your readers.
So here’s something to try:
Pay attention to the times this week in conversation when you are really in your element.
When you stop and think to yourself, Wow, I am really adding value to this person’s life right now. Or Wow, we are really connecting. This is awesome!
Pay attention to what you’re doing in those moments that you’re proud of.
For me, it’s always coming back to acknowledging how the other person feels. When I do that, I always create a deeper connection.
Try to emulate those moments in your writing. Yes, use words that you love. Yes, keep the tone conversational. But don’t just write like you talk.
Write like you want to connect.