Updated: May 10, 2019
As a writer, it's easy to contort your voice in order to make your copy sellable. That might be working against you. Your best content comes when you are free to write in a voice that is authentically you. So how do you embrace that? To start, you have to answer one question.
What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
When you’re complimented on your writing, like really complimented, it makes you feel kinda great, right? You worked your butt off on a piece. Wrote and rewrote and then rewrote again. You know you nailed it. But then comes publishing. Will anyone else get it? Will they get you?
The best compliment I ever received on my writing was when the reader told me it felt like they were talking to me. Why? Because this means, they understood exactly what I was going for.
The first time I received this compliment was the summer before eighth grade in a creative writing class. Each week we had to write a new short story. One week I choose to write about the first day of summer school.
I remember knowing that I wanted to write a candid account of what my first day was like. I wanted to capture the anxiety and excitement I felt, and to share one particularly embarrassing moment. I decided to put it all out there on paper exposed to the world. Kinda heavy for an eighth grader.
Of course, part of any writing process is peer review, which is still terrifying. Ack, judgement! I remember my palms sweating when my essay was returned to me. I took a breath and started reading the comments. Most of it was the basic “good story” or “I liked it”, true critical thinking skills on display. But then I noticed one comment was a little longer than the rest. It was from Julie. She wrote:
“I felt like I was talking to you”
I was thrilled. The second instance occurred at a resume writing workshop. Not only was by writing being scrutinized, but so was my perception of my professional accomplishments. Oh and did I mention the peer review was done by my coworkers? Yikes. Again I decided to go no holds barred.
I designed the header in a bold, bright magenta. I wanted to stand out. In addition to the usual rundown of skills and bullet points I added a hobbies section. I highlighted my love of books, of archaeology, and baking. I even included a recipe.
After the peer review, the feedback I got was this: I felt like I really got to know you as a person, like I was having a conversation with you.
Bam! Memorable impact. Emotional connection. In a resume!
So what's the lesson?
Don’t be afraid of your voice
Think about your greatest compliment. What was the piece? Was it an essay or a resume or a short-story? Who was it written for? What key characteristics make it stand out from your other writing?
If you can uncover these hidden gems then you’re on the path to authenticity. Once you discover these, practice. Practice. Practice. Read your work out loud. Does it sound like you? Are you proud of the words you are writing? Is this something you would actually say? If you can’t stand by the words you’re putting down on paper then it’s not your voice and the quality of your writing will suffer.
Readers will notice the difference between a fake voice and an authentic one. Authenticity always sells and it always feels right. So write what works. Write what’s you.