We all want to write unique, delicious literary works of art that both help and touch people AND grow our business.
It doesn’t matter whether those words are wrapped in a book, blog or social media post – we want to stand out in a sea of sameness, of voices barking for attention.
We want to steer away from being a carbon copy or sounding too much like a writer we adore.
We want to be memorable and thoughtful. We want to develop our authentic voice as a writer. And most of all, we want to be truly OURSELVES as we write.
I’ve been thinking about this lately as I welcome enrolments for my new 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course.
And I wanted to share my thoughts with you on developing your authentic voice as a writer.
7 Ways To Develop Your Authentic Voice As A Writer
1. If you were meant to be somebody else, you would have been born as them.
Fuck imposter syndrome. Fuck believing you need to be anything but what you are.
Don’t try and sound like anybody but who you are.
You were born for a very special reason. Your voice is perfect for sharing that story. It’s time to trust in that.
2. Write to amuse, heal or touch YOURSELF first and foremost.
Want to know how I KNOW I’ve written something REALLY good?
It makes me gigglesnort. Or it brings sweet release.
It makes my heart swell. Or it amuses me greatly.
It make me heal that part of myself that needs to have this story told.
My own writing should make me either laugh or cry.
If it’s not doing that, I think to myself:
How can I be MORE truthful? MORE honest? MORE straight-to-the-heart-of-what-it-is?
Or how can I write this in a way that tickles MY funny bone?
Don’t think about other people and what THEY like. Start with YOU first. And your right people will find you.
3. Read widely.
Especially books. Not just the endless, mindnumb scroll.
Or if you’re going to read the internet, read places with decent, thoughtful writing like The New Yorker, The Atlantic or Medium.
Anything that’s written thoughtfully, eloquently or with a unique voice is great fodder for the writer brain.
It’s why I’ve read The Weekend Australian Magazine for 20 years: because the articles of Ruth Ostrow, Phillip Adams, Trent Dalton and Nikki Gemmell have nourished my writer roots.
On the book front, look for writers with a unique voice that attracts you. It doesn’t matter the genre – instead you are on the hunt for other authentic voices. Something in you knows when you’ve found one – it feels like the author is speaking directly to you. They carve language in a new way. The words are so thoughtfully crafted you hold your breath.
Places I’ve found that over my life: SARK. Douglas Coupland. David Walsh. Julia Cameron. Italo Calvino. Nan Witcomb. Krishna Murti. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It doesn’t matter the genre. What matters is the human.
You might find it in different places from me. That’s PERFECT. Just find the voices that do speak to you. And let them be a soul lighthouse for your authentic voice.
They are proof that it is doable and possible. And that when you do, it will move great mountains.
4. Copy the EFFECT, not the STYLE.
When you DO find writers that inspire you, don’t just be a copy and paste of them. The world doesn’t need another JK Rowling… it already has one!
Instead, notice what it is you love in your favourites, and think how you can create the same. Dive a little deeper than just the surface into WHY they are great writers. Break it down to its scrumptious essence.
So, for example: I love Nikki Gemmell’s writing. Especially her non-fiction books.
What do I love about Nikki?
- I love her searing honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable and unmentionable.
- I love how she plays with words, makes them up, uses them in an innovative way.
- I love how bare-hearted she is in her words.
Those are the things I hope to replicate and respond to, but in my very own Leonie way.
Another example: Trent Dalton:
- I love how I can read an article and know within the first paragraph that it is his.
- I love that he is unabashedly emotional, how he looks into the heart of people and shares his response to them.
- I love how he loves people with his words. He is kind about almost everyone, no matter how odd they may be. He loves humanity.
Again: marvellous essences to tap into and aspire to, without becoming a carbon copy.
Copy the EFFECT of their words, not the STYLE.
5. Falling too much into the comparison trap? Go Full Hermit.
On the other hand, sometimes it can be unhelpful and even painful to read writers you love. You may find yourself comparing yourself viciously or wondering why you should even bother writing when there’s so many other great writers out there. Sometimes there’s so many voices in your head it’s hard to hear your own.
That’s when you know it’s time to go Full Hermit.
Unplug, unfollow and ignore all the writers that trigger you into comparison-itis, indecision and creative inertia.
Plug into YOU instead: journal. Write. Look back through anything you’ve written over your life – note what you love about it.
Do the inner work and self care so you’ve got enough quiet and confidence to share the birdsong that only lives in you.
6. Fuck the masses. Go full weird.
Don’t try and appeal to the masses.
If you try to appeal to EVERYONE, you end up appealing to NO ONE.
Instead, go hard with your own definitive way of writing. It will resonate more deeply with your right audience. It will amuse or touch you more. It will have its own special joie de vivre in its wily weirdness.
Some people, I am sure, think that my writing style is OTT and overly contrived and too sweary/blunt/what the fuck ever.
Even at school, I had some English teachers who would tell me my writing was too “flowery” or “emotional.” And I just remember thinking: NO DERRRR. AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT. YOU ARE WRONG AND I WILL CARRY ON MY MAGICAL WRITING WAY.
And that’s exactly what I did. With great and glorious gusto. Ha!
Here’s the thing: if someone doesn’t resonate with my writing, it means they aren’t the right personality fit for my business. The ones that DO like my writing like it a LOT. They LOVE that I swear, they LOVE that I make up words, they LOVE that I get deeply personal and emotional. If I tried to cull the weird out of my writing, it would have taken out the best bits.
And the people who DO love my writing? They are just the right kind of person for me: funny, compassionate, big-hearted creatives.
Being your own style of weird pays off in attracting people who ADORE your work, and who are just right for YOU.
7. The only way to write well… is to write.
I saw a friend recently. She is brilliant and wise and just a gorgeous person to know. She has SO MUCH to share in her fields of expertise, and has been wanting to start teaching online for years. She already has all her content written… it’s just that fear of actually getting out there and doing the thing.
“The thing is,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’ve got a great speaking voice yet. So I think I should go do Toastmasters or something before I can do anything.”
I looked at her and laughed.
“Fuck off, mate. The only way to learn the thing and get great at the thing is by DOING THE THING. Just start teaching, fuck ya! Start putting courses out already! People needs your work! You’ll learn as you go, and grow as you go. If I’d waited around until I was perfect at everything, I still wouldn’t have done anything! My speaking voice is still shithouse – it shits itself regularly, it’s raspy and I’m a throat speaker. But it is better than what it used to be, and that’s just from sheer practice! JUST DO THE THING ALREADY!”
Have I told you I am a very
bossy blunt encouraging friend?
The same is true as well when it comes to writing. There’s no way to all of a sudden snap your fingers and become a great writer… without writing.
The only way to learn and grow and find your authentic voice is by PRACTICING. Write every day. Blog every day. Journal every day. Whatever form you want to take… the only way out is THROUGH.
No more waiting for perfect.
No more wanting to be anything but who you are. It’s time to use that voice of yours that only lives in you, and start sharing its gifts in the world.
We need you, and we need your story.
It’s the only way this world of ours will heal.
Let’s go make writing magic happen!
Just 15 days left to enrol in my brand new e-course: 40 Days To A Finished Book! Join me on the writing adventure of your life!