Find your writing voice without a single keystroke

How to Find Your Writing Voice Without a Single Keystroke

Feb 22, 2016

Some writers aren’t famous for what they write about, but how their voices sing on the page.

Their cadence elevates their prose beyond countless wordsmiths vying for attention. Chuck Palahniuk, Charles Bukowski, and Kurt Vonnegut are a few one-of-a-kind voices that come to mind.

Are you looking to impact readers with your unique voice? Well, the good news is you don’t have to travel far to find it…


DYSFUNCTIONALLY DATING PERFECTION


I spent a weekend visiting my girlfriend and her family in Maryland. We broke bread, attended a baseball game, and celebrated her college graduation.

Her family and I clicked. They liked me, and I liked them. The problem was that my girlfriend and I didn’t like each other anymore, so we broke up on the way to the airport.

She claimed some of my parting words were, “I really like your family, but you make me sick.”

I don’t remember spitting that venom. Maybe I’ve chosen to repress the memory. Either way, I wish I never voiced those twisted thoughts because that ex-girlfriend did nothing wrong.

All she did was tell me how to save our relationship. Over and over, she mentioned how I wasn’t acting like the same person she fell for.

You see, I thought she needed me to be the ideal mate, so I transformed into a fictitious character whenever we were together.

**Oh, my girlfriend’s at my side… Time to activate the fake Dave parade!**

So I let her pick the flicks, foods, and fights. I aimed to say and do all the right things. I tried to play the role of the perfect guy because I feared I’d lose her if I was anyone else, especially myself.

I still lost her.


WRITER SEEKING SINGLE PAGE OF PERFECTION

For years, I made this same mistake with my writing.

I’d sit down to write, spin a few sentences onto the page, only to immediately erase them. For anything that didn’t get deleted, I’d still end up disappointed because my words read nothing like other popular writers.

I also trunked everything that revealed personal stuff because I didn’t want people to see my broken parts.

Instead, I opted to write in the voice I thought readers wanted to hear. I strived to craft prose that would make people view me as perfect.

If that sounded like you, then you’re a lot like me, and that means you’re guilty of seeking writing perfection.

The pursuit of the perfect words compels you to withhold your true writing voice.

It prevents you from letting down your guard and sharing your unique take on this world because the moment your writing displays any of your irregularities, perfection roars that you can’t or shouldn’t share your raw inflections.

The pursuit of perfection doesn’t want readers to see the real you because if you shared your flaws, readers may reject you.

Rejection can be terrifying every time you hit publish. However, you must recognize that rejection is not just a potential reality, but an inevitability.

This inevitable rejection is what held back my true writing voice for years. For far too long, I spoke to the page the same way the young and dumb Dave acted around every girl he dated before the age of 24.

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THE RISE OF IMPERFECTION

My ex-girlfriend moved back to San Diego a couple months after our breakup. We shared the same circle of friends, so we started seeing each other at social herdings.

By that point, I’d found peace of mind in our separation. And I stopped thinking twice about showing my abnormalities around her.

Less than a year later, that ex-girlfriend became my wife.

She signed a marriage contract with this imperfect person. 19 years of wedlock later, she continues to challenge me to be a better husband, father, and man. I trust her more than anyone else in this strange world.

I’ve found there’s a lot of freedom in permitting yourself to be imperfect.

Of course, I can’t guarantee you’ll get back together with an ex or blend the perfect mix of words when you start acting like true self, however, I’m confident you’ll get better at letting your voice shine on the page.

I also think you’ll find more satisfaction in your writing. If anything, you’ll attract more people genuinely interested in who you are and what you have to say.

I finally found my writing voice when I started accepting and sharing my many faults. I ain’t the bestest or most perfectest writer, but this voice suits me. That may read odd so let me reword it, not to reach perfection, but to be as clear as possible.

You must accept your flawed writing before you can release your true voice.


A REUNION WITH BEING REAL

All I know is that when I try too hard to please anyone, my writing often becomes unattractive to everyone.

I’d rather be the writer I am than the writer I think readers need me to be.

I’m thinking we’re on the same page because you’re still reading, so try these exercises to harness your imperfect voice the next time you write:

  1. Speak your thoughts through your keyboard as though you’re talking to just one person.
    • Picture just one reader or friend and let the words roll off your fingertips. This approach should prompt you to write more fluidly and share your voice in an intimate way.
  2. Expose yourself. Uh, keep your clothes on, but integrate something personal into the piece you’re creating.
    • Whether that’s a fictive piece or something else, opening up to readers guarantees you’re showcasing your true self. I do my best to share failures or a unique story in every blog post I publish.
    • Stories about bone collecting, malfunctioning pants, and birthday breakups with girlfriends helped me better connect with readers (as opposed to positioning myself as a pompous, perfect know-it-all).
  3. Get selfish and write for yourself.
    • Did you ever keep a journal or diary? Weren’t you more open to sharing your take on life and documenting how you really felt when you knew no one was looking?
    • Do that again because it may help you get back to writing in the way you were always meant to express yourself. Then if you’re feeling brave about the thoughts you transcribed, publish those words somewhere, anywhere.


WRITING HAPPILY EVER AFTER

The truth is readers will probably dislike your writing if you try to please them with perfection. You have your current friends because they enjoy who you are and how you communicate, so don’t try and be someone else on the page.

Straight up, you don’t need to find your writing voice or spend years honing it. You just need to start releasing the imperfect one you already possess.

That imperfect writing voice will change over time, but that’s true in everyday life as well. My mouthpiece today is nothing like the high-pitched voice I had 30 years ago, and that’s a blessing.

Now go bark like the beast you’re meant to be.