Even before I opened this blog, I kept one eye on the #bbloggers hashtag whenever I could, out of sheer nosiness. This move was extraordinarily out of character, clearly, but what consistently struck me was the number of times the phrase “finding your voice” and its variants came up, no matter the topic. Bloggers’ block? You need to find your voice. Want a good relationship with PR? Finding your voice will sort that out. Traffic not quite living up to expectation? For heavens’ sake, FIND YOUR VOICE…and while you’re at it, check out the amazing giveaway on MY blog!
That’s brilliant, fantastic, and I’m unequivocally thrilled that that was your experience. This undoubtedly well intentioned advice, though, is a little (read: a LOT) easier said than done. Granted, the vast majority of us have been talking since we were around a year old, and many of us haven’t stopped since. How much of that time have we spent critically assessing what we say and how we say it, and modifying it to make sure our target audience can understand and relate to it? If that were more commonplace, the world would never know the simple pleasures of foot in mouth syndrome. You – 0. Your elusive “voice” – 1.
Another strike against you is figuring out what on earth a “voice” is. It’s one thing to declare that your voice is quite deep, unmoderated, but can reach ultrasonic tones proportional to how excited you are, and broadly middle class with some Made in Chelsea round the edges and a touch of the North if you’re fresh from a visit to the family. If anybody is reading this who has met me in my unnatural habitat of reality, I seriously hope that whenever you read what I write on here, it’s that voice that’s reading it to you in your head. It’s quite another to translate a whole load of wordiness to something vaguely coherent if you’ve never met me, however, so take what I just said about my voice, and let your imagination fill in the gaps.
What I’m trying to say is that what I THINK people mean when they tell you to find your voice is to practice, practice, practice, writing what you’d tell someone – a friend, your mum, your grandpa, a teacher, the nice gentleman trying to sell you The Big Issue, the Houses of Parliament- in a real life conversation. That means writing blog posts until your voice is coming out of your ears and could drown out Wembley Stadium. If you want proof that it takes a bit of trial and error, you need look no further than my archives.
The next step to finding one’s voice? Take pride in it. When I was at school, I was mortified every time one of my peers asked me what that long word I’d just used meant, or if I truly had swallowed a dictionary. This isn’t intended to be some sort of ugly, thinly veiled brag on my skills of articulacy, because I sure as anything didn’t see it that way. My confidence starved self ended up dumbing down her language to fit in. Don’t do that. You just sound forced and uneducated, and not only will your voice take off at breakneck pace, so will anybody around you with half a brain cell.
Eventually, once you’ve worked out how you talk, how to put that in pixels, and how to take pride in it, there is a balance to be struck. Do you just open up your word processor of choice and let your fingers go for it? As you might imagine, if I were to do that, you’d have an essay on your screen, and I’ve plenty of those to be going on with. Part of the path to Internet self actualisation, then, must be knowing when to say “when” – when a word or sentence structure is too much – too colloquial, too formal, too explicit, too something. It’s probably a valuable life skill, too, but not one I have bothered with much.
I never intended to weigh in on any kind of blogging debate, for the record. My opinions are worth exactly what you paid for them, but in the ongoing process that is me narcissistically prodding at my psyche a bit to see what’s hiding in there, I thought it tied in pretty well with a phrase that has left me rolling my eyes many a time. To be fair, it doesn’t take much to elicit that particular reaction.
And since a picture says one thousand words, probably far more eloquently than I ever could, let’s hear it for Paw-pe Muffinski Tiger, International Cat of Mystery, and the best example I can think of of finding one’s voice. Too bad he has rather a limited lexicon.