While looking for blogging and writing tips, my Pinterest board filled itself with advice on how to find your blogging voice. Preferably in 5 steps or less. Before, when I wasn’t trying to take myself quite so seriously as a writer, my voice was full of humour and the silliness that is part of a 20-year-old’s world. Now, as a 30 something semi-grown up professional, I feel out-of-place, like an ‘Icicle in the tropics’. I doubt every word that comes on paper and no new posts have come out of my pen for a while – they call it writer’s block or something.
With tears in my eyes – from laughing so hard – I read the post that I wrote in my travel journal. It’s about why I detest air-conditioning when in tropical countries.
“Of course. The air-conditioning just had to be turned on… Fine. But does it have to be so freakin’ cold! I feel like I’m sleeping naked on the South Pole right now.
“I mean. Hello?! Have you ever heard of an icicle in the tropics?”*
Personal blog, Belém – Brazil (Nov. 2008)
*Just as small FYI: I’ve learned to sleep in my warmest sweater, while in the tropics.
I was so free in my writing. My voice on paper was full of humour and a TMI-moment here and there – okay – lots of them, since the audience was mostly my family (sorry mom, dad). Not everything I wrote was good, but I felt a certain freedom in writing.
But now I’m trying to find my Voice – with a capital V
Now when I write, as a professional, in my head there is a constant nagging: “Did you consider step 4 in the 5 steps to finding your voice? Is it perfect? Have I finally found it? Should you even put this out there? Is it ‘on brand’?”
It paralyses me. My writing voice becomes stilted – too damn serious – “stick-up-the-arse” booorinnnnggg. Less human. I get too scared to talk about anything.
The thing is, in this quest for perfection, you keep comparing your beginning to somebody else’s middle – which I think happens a lot when reading all the well-meant “how to … in 5 Steps”- blog posts. The difference is, I re-started my blog and my company a few months ago. They have been at it for years.
Where do you think they began?
Before, when I wasn’t trying to do things quite so seriously when I wrote my personal travel blogs for my family, I had a voice, laced with lots of self-deprecating humour about the situations I found myself in.
I once described my annoyance with two girls entering my room in the hostel, while I was trying to sleep:
“As icing on the cake. Two new chicas just stormed into my room, while I was trying to sleep. I don’t know what battle they found themselves in – it must have been a doozy. I mean it seemed like they were rebuilding the room in the dark! They at least adhered to one of the rules of hostelling – don’t turn on the light, but that would have been less aggravating than that noise from hell. I was about ready to join the battle myself and knock some heads together – so I could get back to my beauty sleep. My bed was bouncing around like a 10.0 earthquake on the Richter Scale!”
Personal blog, Belém – Brazil (Nov. 2008)
The writing paints a certain picture that makes you laugh – I nearly wet my pants, because I could see it happening in my mind. Yes. I know. I was there… I just meant I could repaint the picture in my mind of something that happened nearly 10 years ago. The situation and my reaction are even recognizable for other fellow humans – if you’ve ever slept in a hostel that is.
Write. Write. And write some more…
That is how I want my writing to become better. For now, to just write and see where my voice ends up, instead of reading blogs with titles called: “How to find your voice in the blogosphere; Five tips to….; Why it’s important to find your niche…”. Constantly over thinking if what I write fits my company.
We cannot forget that behind our businesses and blogs, there is a human.
Behind The Ecotourist is a human woman, called Susanna, who really likes to make jokes and who has a life besides work. I do things. I make stupid mistakes. I laugh. I cry. I sometimes write really bad posts.
Being interesting on paper and not writing with the proverbial “stick-up-the-arse”
I’m not saying that it’s not important to think about branding or who your audience is. I took the course “Unf*ckwithable Boss” and I now fully understand that selling is all about the copy – the words. It helps if people understand what your brand stands for so they can determine if they want to be your super fans and declare their undying love for you and your brilliantness. At the same time, however, you do need to give yourself the chance and the time to find that voice and that niche.
Without questioning your every move.
Weighing your every word.
That’s just so heavy and tiring and pointless. Where’s the fun in that?
You are always changing, evolving, improving your voice
Start where you are with the imperfect words and the unclear niche and work your way further to the more advanced branding.
As Ash from the Middle Finger Project – only my most favourite website in the world – keeps telling us:
“Nothing’s that big of a deal. Nothing. […] Because here’s the thing about business: It’s always changing. And you are always changing. And you will always be tweaking things forevermore, anyway, so whatever you decide to do today, probably will be different next month. So that’s great news! That means that you can execute without all the anxiety around whether or not things are perfect. You’re going to change them later, anyway.”
Ash – The Middle Finger Project – #30 of “The 30 Commandments of Working for Yourself”.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, even when it’s serious business.
You might wonder why I write all these self-helpy type of advice columns. It’s mostly for myself, my own confidence training, to find my way in this sea of well-meant blogging advice. Although, I do hope that my musings help you too. It’s to remind myself that I should start doing, instead of looking at others for the answer.
In the end, nobody can tell you how. There isn’t a magic formula called “instant-witty-but-intelligent-voice-that-sells”. Or else I would be the first one in line to buy it.
You have to take the time. Make the mistakes. It’s not for nothing that the saying goes: practice makes perfect – at least until that next iteration.