One of the hardest aspects of writing to pin down is “voice”. You probably hear all the time that writers need to “find their voice”, as if it is some mysterious thing hidden away in the subconscious somewhere.
A writers voice does come from their subconscious, but it is not something that lurks there fully formed and waiting to be found. A writer’s voice must be cultivated, and the writer must use their subconscious to do that.
But how? We are still being vague here. If a writer has any hope of developing a unique writing voice then we first have to try and define exactly what that is.
In simple terms, writing voice can be defined as not what you say, but how you say it.
The power of such a simplified definition means that for the writer, they can write about virtually anything as long as they write in their own true voice.
If you’re a writer (and I assume you are since you are reading this) you should find that liberating, especially if you happen to be a blogger or article writer.
Why is that liberating though?
It’s liberating because once you find your writing voice you will never again be stuck for something to say and write about. For a writer who has to write every day (as all professional writers should) this is awesome news.
Think about it. When are you most stuck when it comes to writing? For most people it’s when they can’t think of anything to write about. It’s a common complaint you hear from a lot of bloggers especially. Bloggers have to publish at least one to three articles a week in order to sustain their readership. That can be difficult as hell to keep up if you struggle to think of things to say in your blog posts.
It’s okay in the beginning when you have lots to say, but after a hundred or two hundred posts, it can feel like you have nothing worthwhile left to say.
This is usually untrue however. In reality, you likely have plenty to say. The problem is that you are putting constraints on yourself as a writer. You probably have a narrow view of what it is you are supposed to be writing about.
If you write in a small niche, this can feel especially true. You can end up feeling like you have said all there is to say on your chosen subject. That’s true only if you limit yourself to writing in a superficial way.
You are writing about a subject rather than writing about yourself.
To tap into the flow of words again, you have to try and find a way to write about yourself while still staying true to your readership, and adhering to the values your readers follow you for in the first place.
If you write from a personal place that your readers will still identify with and get value from, you will never run out of things to say ever again.
But how does one do that? How does one tap into this endless stream of good content? And how does one express this content uniquely?
Lets find out.
Learn To Trust Yourself As A Writer
When I say you should learn to trust yourself, what I mean is you should cultivate faith in yourself as writer.
Have the confidence to define yourself as a writer first of all. This is important. If you sit down at your keyboard without trusting that you will produce good work, you will fail.
I can’t tell you how many times in the past I sat down to write and ended up walking away in frustration because I wasn’t able to write anything, sometimes not a single word. That can be a disheartening experience for a writer. Do that enough times and your confidence will soon get decimated.
If the self-belief and confidence isn’t there, you won’t produce very much, and what you do produce probably won’t be very good. In fact, your work will be mediocre at best. I know this because it’s been my experience. I see the same thing in other writers as well. If someone’s writing is lacking in lots of ways, it’s usually because they don’t have enough confidence in themselves as writers in the first place.
When you sit down to write, it’s imperative that you believe you will not only write what you need too, but that your writing will be of a high standard. More than that, you need to believe your writing will be awesome.
For this to happen, you need to have faith in yourself and faith in the creative process.
You need to know that when you settle in to write, you will produce something of value.
In a way, this requires a leap of faith. When you sit down to write you may not have any fully formed ideas of what you want to write about. This is often the case when I write. I may have the vaguest of ideas in my head, sometimes just a single word or concept before I begin. Not much to go on, right? Especially if you are the kind of writer that needs to know every detail before they start writing.
This is where the leap of faith comes in. Despite the fact that you have very little to go on, you should start anyway.
Just start writing.
This is what I often do, and almost always the words start to flow by themselves. I just let them come. I don’t try to curb the flow by analyzing what I’m writing. Whatever wants to come out, I let out.
Sound simple, right? That’s because it is.
This article started with a single idea: writing voice. From there I felt like I wanted to explore this concept of writing voice. I wanted to discover what writing voice is and how to get it. That’s it, that’s all I had before I started writing. Every word you are reading here flowed from that initial idea, with no figuring things out beforehand.
I trusted myself enough to just let the words flow. I let my writing voice take over.
That’s what you need to do as well. You need to trust that the words and ideas are there already. All you have to do is sit down and facilitate them coming out on to the screen.
You may find this process of faith and trust difficult at first. I know I did, but I think that’s because I was trying to control what came out of me. I’ve since learned that it is better not to try and exert any kind of control over what comes out of you. It’s important to go with the flow and let the words come out freely. You can always edit later.
Don’t try to force it too much either. Forcing things causes stress, and stress will lead to a big-assed writers block.
Try to be as Zen about the whole process as possible. Don’t over-think it. Just sit down and do it. Let it happen naturally.
If you cultivate enough faith and trust in yourself and the creative process, the words will come and they will come in your own unique voice.
Define What You Believe In
I read an interesting article the other day by Jeff Goins, in which he talked about defining your world view in order to find your writing voice. In fact, it was that same article that sparked me into thinking about writing voice in the first place.
In Jeff’s article, he discussed the importance of defining your world view, the thinking being that your unique perspective on the world will infuse your writing with originality and facilitate the forming of your writing voice.
It’s been my experience that the more of yourself and your personal perspective you put into your writing, the more unique and original your writing will be, even if you are writing about a subject that has been written about numerous times before by other writers.
Don’t hinder yourself too much as a writer by thinking in terms of subject. Think more about your personal take on that subject. Coming at your writing from that angle is the only way you will write originally.
If you write from a pure subject perspective, your writing will likely be dry, workman-like and uninspiring. For your writing to be valuable and inspiring, you must inject your own personality and unique perspectives into it.
That’s what will make your writing stand out. That’s why people will love to read your stuff, not because of what you say (although what you say will certainly help—the more valuable the better), but because of how you say it.
How you say something depends on the perspectives behind the message, behind the words.
We all think differently, we all have unique perspectives on the world. Use that to inform your writing voice.
The internet is full of writers who usurp other writer’s beliefs as their own. They take other people’s beliefs, opinions and perspectives and try to put them across as their own. I know because I used to be one of those writers. That was before I discovered the power of my own uniqueness and creativity.
You will never achieve uniqueness as a writer that way. All you are doing is writing under someone else’s shadow. Get out from under those shadows and step into the light of your own uniqueness. Write under the enlightening rays of your own beliefs and experiences.
Certainly, steal ideas from everywhere, but when it comes time to write about those ideas, do so with your own voice. Put your own spin on those ideas.
Have the balls to say, “This is me, this is what I believe, this is how I think things are.”
Set yourself apart. Take a stand.
Your readers will love you for it.
This what I did on my last blog, Combative Mind. It’s a self defense blog in a pretty small and crowded niche. Within a year of starting that blog I had a large readership and the site ranked high in the search results for my keywords, beating many older and more established sites.
Why was this? In terms of subject, I wasn’t writing about anything that hadn’t been written about a thousand times before on other blogs and sites.
The reason I was able to make an impact was because I wrote about the subject in my own voice. I gave people my own perspective on the subject and I inspired them to think differently about it.
That’s what you have to try and achieve when you write. You have try and inspire your readers to think differently about a subject that isn’t at all new to them.
That’s also what I’m trying to do with this blog. Writing and publishing is a well covered subject, but it hasn’t been covered the way I cover it. That’s why I hope this blog will stand out from the many other writing and publishing blogs out there.
You must do the same with your chosen subject or niche. Write about it in your own voice.
Pay Attention To Ideas When They Come
The more you pay attention to the ideas that come to you, the more ideas will come. This is something that I have found.
Neil Gaiman, the bestselling fantasy writer, has been quoted as saying that good writers are simply those who have learned to pay attention to ideas when they come. Everyone gets ideas, but not everyone pays attention and then actively develops those ideas.
When you start paying attention too and developing the ideas that come, you should find yourself writing about those ideas in your own voice, because they are your ideas, no one else’s. You haven’t purposely ripped those ideas off from somewhere. Those ideas have come to you like manna from heaven. They are yours. You will therefore write about them as if they are yours.
Professional writers take immediate action on the ideas that come to them because they have learned the more they do this, the more ideas they will get and the more unique those ideas will become.
Your subconscious throws ideas out into your conscious mind because it wants you to develop those ideas and use your own unique voice to write about them.
If you ignore what your subconscious gives you, it will simply stop giving. Your subconscious is no different to a real person. Its nobodies fool. There are only so many times it will try to help you before it says, “Fuck you, buddy. You’re on your own. Good luck.”
Don’t piss off your subconscious by ignoring it. Listen to it and act on the ideas it gives you. Once your subconscious sees you are serious it will do everything it can to give you the best ideas possible. Not only that, but when you sit down to write in the manner we just discussed, your subconscious will be in the driving seat.
Your subconscious will write for you!
You’ll just be a facilitator, someone to type the words your subconscious puts out. How awesome is that, having all that creative juice at your fingertips?
Try to do this everyday and you will find this connection with your subconscious getting stronger.
Which brings us to the most important way to cultivate your writing voice…
Write, Write, Write!
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard people say that a million times before. No shit. I don’t care if you think it’s trite or clichéd advice.
It’s goddamn true!
The best way to cultivate your writing voice is to write, and to write as much as you can. This is especially true if you are just starting your writing journey. There’s a lot of crap inside you that has to be written out before you can begin to write anything good. The sooner you expel the crap the sooner you will put out good stuff.
Even when you do manage to write good stuff, you still need to keep writing every day. You need to constantly reinforce your relationship with your subconscious and the creative process.
It’s a marriage for life. You can’t just come and go as you please. If you did that—only writing when you felt like it—and your subconscious was your spouse, it wouldn’t be long before it filed for divorce and kicked you out.
Keep your subconscious happy. Treat it right by feeding it every day and it will reward you with creative riches.
Learn To Love Writing
Think of writing like a relationship. The more love and attention you give that relationship, the more rewarding it will be for you.
Develop a love for writing.
You know how I developed my love for writing?
By being more professional. By writing every day. By taking the whole thing seriously. By loving my subconscious for doing what it does, and by loving the creative process for being so awe-inspiringly beautiful and treating it like the gift it is.
Fall in love with writing and it will love you back.
What about you? How did you develop your writing voice? Let us know in the comments below.