The 5 Steps You Must Take to Shape Your Writer’s Voice

The 5 Steps You Must Take to Shape Your Writer's Voice

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?

10 Questions That Will Help You Unearth Your Unique Voice

10 questions that will help you unearth your unique writer's voice

How do you know if your writing is moving you toward unearthing your unique writer’s voice?

It isn’t easy.

I don’t have a microwave-ready solution.

But I can provide a few questions for you to ask yourself when you struggle with how deep and real to go.

Define Your Online Voice (Free Course)

Take my scrumptious 5 day course on how to define your blog voice.  You’ll learn how to think about your blog, and your voice, in a whole new way. Just enter your name and email address and you’ll get the course delivered to your inbox. It’s only free for a limited time.

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1. Does this writing feel true to me?

When your writing is true, you can feel it in your body. Really.

You’ll know it when you’re writing something true and real, versus something that is just for the sake of getting another post done.

If you are really dedicated to unearthing your unique voice, trash anything untrue.

2. Does this writing matter to me?

Would you be proud to share your post with your friends and family?

Do you have the urge to read it again and again?

If so, it matters to you.

This doesn’t mean it has to be perfect, or even great writing.

It just means that you care about it.

3. Am I comfortable with people reading this whom I don’t know?

Here’s the tricky part.

Sometimes you write something real and gritty and important.

But it’s too personal. It’s TMI.

Growing your writer’s voice does mean that you go deep inside, but it doesn’t mean that you have to share everything you find.

Your voice is crafted by you. So decide what you actually want people to see.

4. If my best friend read this, would she think, that is so [YOUR NAME]?

Your voice is unique to you.

No one has your story, or your personality, other than you. (Duh…)

Have you ever seen an article of clothing, and immediately been certain that a particular friend would love it?

That’s how your blog posts should be – an obvious fit for your blog wardrobe.

5. Did I let myself “go there” with this?

Real writing feels a little like being naked.

You don’t want to share TMI, but at the same time, you want to go where you’re afraid to go.

Truly powerful writing comes from courageous exploration.

Were you courageous in your writing? If not, can you go deeper?

6. Was I fully present while writing this post?

Have you ever sat down to write, but then instead of focusing, you spent a lot of time doing other things – checking Facebook, answering emails, talking to your dog, etc?

That’s probably a sign that you either aren’t invested in the piece, or that you’re avoiding something you need to write.

For a post to be infused with your voice, you need to be completely “there” while writing it.

7. How much “people pleasing” did I do in this post?

There is a shitload of information out there on creating shareable content.

You can look up how many words your headline should be. You can research keywords to make sure that people are searching for what you’re writing about.

And it’s good to know all of that information.

But if your post is mainly based on that research, and not on what’s true for you, it’s probably not going to cultivate your voice.

8. Did I try too hard in this post?

If you’ve ever been to a social gathering, you’ve met people that are trying way too hard.

People that laugh too loudly, talk about themselves too much, and make it awkwardly obvious they aren’t there to be genuine, but rather, to impress others.

Don’t be that person.

If your post feels like you’re trying to hard – to impress, to fit in, to get customers – take a step back.

Find a thread of honesty in there, and rewrite.

9. Did I let go of my internal editor in this post?

What keeps us from being real in our writing is that internal editor.

The voice that says, Wow, this sucks. Do you really think anyone will want to read this? I can’t believe you’re sharing this with people.

Sound familiar?

Cultivating your voice means silencing that editor. It means slicing through the painful inner dialogue.

One way of doing this in the beginning is to force yourself to keep writing for a certain period of time. No matter what, keep going.

You can go back and edit later.

10. Is this post tribe-worthy?

Tribe-worthy content seethes with energy and honesty.

It encourages people to gather around you because you are writing what needs to be written.

Tribes form because their leaders shine a flashlight on the path ahead.

And because they believe in the their leaders’ stories.

Would you follow the person that wrote your post?

Define Your Online Voice (Free Course)

Take my scrumptious 5 day course on how to define your blog voice.  You’ll learn how to think about your blog, and your voice, in a whole new way. Just enter your name and email address and you’ll get the course delivered to your inbox. It’s only free for a limited time.

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How to find your writer’s voice: 20 writers weigh in (+ an awesome infographic)

How to find your writer's voice- 20 writers weigh in

Your writer’s voice can sometimes feel like this elusive, nebulous thing.

Many writers say that  you don’t know when you’ll find it, but when you do, it’s like love at first sight – you just just know.

I believe you can cultivate your writer’s voice, and that it’s in you right now – you just have to tap in.

Define Your Online Voice (Free Course)

Take my scrumptious 5 day course on how to define your online voice.  You’ll learn how to think about your online presence, and your voice, in a whole new way. Just enter your name and email address and you’ll get the course delivered to your inbox. It’s only free for a limited time.

I went on a search for inspiring quotes on writer’s voice. Quotes that I hope you’ll keep nearby when you write, to keep you focused on staying real, vulnerable, and true to yourself. And I made this awesome graphic so that you’ll have something pretty to look at.

Voice infographic




Want to read the full posts? Check out all of the links below. (The titles are links)

Chuck Wendig from terrible minds

Voice is not just the result of a single sentence or paragraph or page. It’s not even the sum total of a whole story. It’s all your work laid out across the table like the bones and fossils of an unidentified carcass.

Joshua Fields Milburn of the Minimalists

The shattered rules lying on my cuttingroom floor have shaped my writing voice more than anything else.

Theo Pauline Nestor on the Huffington Post

Head straight into all that is particular and quirky about you.

Steven Pressfield

What voice does the material want? Find that. You the writer are not there to impose “your” voice on the material. Your job is to surrender to the material–and allow it to tell you what voice it wants in order to tell itself.

Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall in Finding Your Writer’s Voice

Most writers struggle to unearth voice – not only because one’s own voice is simply too familiar, but also because to speak from your voice means confronting your world, your dreams, and your entire life raw and unsoftened by explanations.

James Scott Bell

When an author is joyous in his telling, it pulses through the words.

Joanne Fedler

Sometimes by reading the way others write, we feel an echo in ourselves, or the flash of a lighthouse bringing us closer to our own voice.

Suddenly Jamie

The true voice of a writer is the nameless fire that burns inside, turning up the heat, licking at mind and heart until it becomes unbearable to wait even a single moment longer before putting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard.

Dave Robison

Every breathing moment – awake or asleep – has layered depth and breadth and scope to Your Voice. It rumbles like grinding continents, burns like lightning, and whispers like a child on Santa’s knee. It’s authentic and powerful and it’s yours.

Gwen Moss

I believe the beauty of our writing is found in our striking uniqueness; in the lines of our face, the turns and twists of our lives, and from the real-life characters we’ve met.

April Erwin

Finding your voice is a process, a journey to the center of you. You have a unique voice; one God gave only to you. It’s time to dig a little deeper and set it free.

Robin LaFevers

So finding our voice is about having the strength and courage to proclaim that what we have to say matters, that what we feel is relevant, that what fascinates us is worthy of fascination.

Henri Junttila

All you can do right now is to express the voice you have. Do not wait for a-ha moments and big discoveries, because they may never come.

Natalie Goldberg

If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.

Louis Menand

What writers hear when they are trying to write is something more like singing than like speaking. Inside your head, you’re yakking away to yourself all the time. Getting that voice down on paper is a depressing experience. When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music.

Leo Babuta

My writing voice is really the voice in my head. It’s not how I talk aloud, but how I talk to myself, in the noisy cavern of my skull. I listen to myself talk, inside, and that’s the voice I try to get down in writing.

Holly Lisle

Voice is born from a lot of words and a lot of work — but not just any words or any work will do. You have to bleed a little. You have to shiver a little. You have to love a lot.

Jeff Bullas

Accepting that you are not perfect but a product of a life journey can empower you to realise, write and reveal the naked you. People will find a voice that is transparent and full of bumps, scrapes and scratches with a rich voice tapestry much more interesting than a mass produced sound of blandness.

Shirley Kawa-Jump

When you find your authentic voice, it’s like stepping into a comfortable pair of shoes. The rhythm and pacing of your words feel right, as if they’re meant just for you.

Len Cristobal

French artist Henri Matisse once said that “creativity takes courage.” For us writers, it’s the courage to believe in our ways with words and the world, in our story, in our own unique voice.