by Suzie Eller
What is a writing voice? It’s how you write your words. Hemingway sounds different than Grisham. Voskamp sounds different than TerKeurst. You sound different than the writer sitting next to you.
The problem is that we often try to be someone else.
We want to be poetic like Voskamp. We want to be wise and witty like TerKeurst. Yet your voice is uniquely you. If you try to sound like someone else, it will fall flat. Even if you pull it off for a season, it’s exhausting to try to be anyone but yourself.
In this post, we’re sharing three tips to find your writing voice.
If your words sound like a stranger, toss it out.
Is this something you’d share with a friend over coffee? If you did talk to her in this way, would that friend look at you in confusion?
Speak the words out loud. Listen as if hearing the words for the first time. Does it feel natural? Does it feel like you?
Sometimes we try to sound like a teacher or an expert. Maybe we want to be funny like that writer we admire. If you are naturally a teacher and that’s what comes across in real life, awesome. If you are funny or lean toward satire in everyday circumstances, that will weave its way in.
Be uniquely you.
Pull that reader close
We might struggle to find our voice because it feels like we are talking to a blank screen.
Use your imagination. Pull the reader close. Consider the conversation you’d have with him or her. See her face. Her expression. Think of her questions. Then talk to her as you write.
When we do this, you can take the deepest topic and make it feel like a friend-to-friend exchange.
Our words can land in a wad when trying to juggle editing, goals, felt needs, word count, and a deadline. We may hit a brick wall.
When that happens, free write. Put a blank page on the screen and just write. Be honest. Be gritty. Let the rabbit trails happen as your words take you where they will. Don’t be afraid of humor. Don’t be afraid of sadness. Don’t be afraid of anger, or joy, or any other emotion. Talk about whatever is on your brain, from food to that fight you had to the thought you can’t shake from your brain. Let your words come out to play for at least three minutes.
You may find a gem in those words. You will restart your creativity. You will also find your writing voice somewhere in that tangle of words.
YOUR ASSIGNMENT IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT
Choosing any of the three tips above, write one paragraph that is you and only you.
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I did the free writing suggestion and it was amazing. I ended up having 3 writing topics to dive deeper into and even picked my word for 2019! Free writing is my new favorite writing exercise.
I love that!
You’re right, Suzie, about talking to a blank screen. I write to an imaginary audience of real people. This group includes a young man damaged by childhood abuse, a bitter woman who sees God in the image of her incestuous father, a businessman who maintains a strictly rational relationship with the Almighty, a coworker who thinks all religions are equal paths to peace and a friend who dismisses any Scripture that doesn’t fit her worldview. My imaginary audience also includes Christians who don’t read well–for them, I use familiar words and simple sentences. I write to them with the voice I use to talk with them.
Thanks for this post, and the assignment. I was reminded of my struggle as a young woman to accept who I was – the earnest and serious one, the good listener. I yearned to be the funny one, the exciting one who always suggested the new adventure. Over time I have become more comfortable in my own skin, and learned to value the way God made me. But I think as I started writing I faced that same dilemma again. Thanks for the reminder to be the writer I am and be true to my own voice.
I loved this assignment. It has allowed me to write what I think, my purpose, and my dream. I love to journal. This is basically the same. I can look back at these writings and see a project I can develop and research. Thank you Suzie
I am passionate and practical. Passionate about the Word of God, practical in it’s application to daily life. I do not want to be like or sound like anyone other than who I am in Christ. I loved this post because of that. Spurring other ladies on the be authentically who they are is incredibly important to me. Helping them breakthrough bondage and whatever is holding them back is a fire that God has put in me, and I love it. It has taken me a long time to get where I am but I am thankful to be here now.
These are fantastic tips- I look forward to trying them out in my journal this week! I LOVE the idea of picturing the reader (I agree– it feels hard to write “to” the computer sometimes!), and the idea of free writing and not being AFRAID of our emotions is so good…I can find I want to edit my emotions out of my writing for fear that people will judge me, or think I’m “too” emotional.. As a writer and a creative I can tend to be very sensitive and so I feel a LOT. I’ve had to give myself freedom to just do brain dumps in my journal to get it all out, and you’re right, sometimes there is a kernel of really good stuff in there that I can use for an essay or blog post.
I was also thinking that we are often afraid to be ourselves- I’ve been reading “The Dream of You” by Jo Saxton– it’s SOO good and all about embracing our God-given identity and owning OUR voice and story!
Thank you for this encouragement!
I love Jo! I am adding that book to my to-read list. Thanks!
This has been a struggle for me since I started writing. It is funny how this journey has paralleled lie too. We spend time trying to be, act, and dress, a certain way we think will help us accepted and loved, but most of the time we turn into someone else in that process. I found I did that with my writing at first. It has been a struggle to accept my differences in writing style because it doesn’t look like anyone’s most of the time. It doesn’ seem good enough. I did the exercise this morning and ended up writing a blog post from it. God has been speaking to me about letting go of posting on social media and focusing just on writing. My head has been so much on setting up a platform of some sort and God just wants me to write. Some days I am better than others but this exercise really helped me to just write and it was really fruitful. Thanks, Suzie!
I often find myself mimicking another writer’s voice when I write after reading. If I read a sassy author, I inject a little sass. The contemplative books inspire me to be more serious. I appreciate these tips, Suzie! Free writing sounds like a good way to work out the mimicry and find my way back to my own voice.