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A simple practice to help you find your voice

Sep 9, 2022 | Writing & Publishing

You probably hear a lot of talk about ‘finding your voice’ as a writer and content creator, and that’s because it’s an important topic. As a writer, it’s your voice they fall in love with. Which is why so many people get so frustrated that they’re struggling to ‘find it’.

First thing’s first. You haven’t ‘lost’ your voice. It’s not like you left it at the checkout at Tesco, or it became wedged between the sofa cushions along with your bank card and the other TV remote. You have the perfect voice already. It’s just that you’ve got into a habit of muting it when you write.

What is ‘your voice’?

Your voice is the voice you think in. It’s the one that you use when you meet your best friend for a natter. In fact, in most scenarios you open your mouth and your voice just comes out. Technically speaking, your voice is about the tone you use (is it serious, funny, sarcastic, calm?). It’s also about the words and kinds of vocabulary you naturally reach for, and other things like your sentence length, and the rhythm with which you communicate your ideas.

Why are you struggling to write in it then?

Well, most of us have spent our lives up until now writing stuff for school or college or work where we’re expected to use the same personality-less, formal tone that everyone else uses. You know the one. It kind of makes you sound like you’re a newsreader on Politics Today. You’ve spent years keeping it formal, keeping it professional, staying middle of the road and safe and now you have free rein and full permission to really let your freak flag fly it all feels a bit weird and unnatural (oh the irony).

So how do you do it?

If you want to become a writer and creator that attracts the kind of fans who open every email, buy every book, read every blog post, you’re going to find that so much easier once you learn to write in your true voice. And the easiest way to start doing that is to practice. Don’t worry, there’s a really simple exercise for that. I first started doing this practice myself 20 odd years ago when I first read about it in that old classic, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. And even today when I do it and look back on what I’ve written last week, last month, or even last year, I find new nuggets to use in my writing going forward. Plus I really believe it’s this practice that has really helped me get comfortable with writing in my own true voice.

In short, it’s about taking time every day to write freely, unedited and uncensored. Some writers call it ‘free writing’ or you may know it as ‘morning pages’ as popularised by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Either way, the important thing to remember is that the magic in this exercise comes in doing it over and over again, so commit to a week, a month, to filling a journal, and then when you realise how amazing it is, before you know it you’ll have a whole storage box full of journals. Here’s how I do it.

An exercise to hone your natural writing voice

I practice free writing with a good old fashioned paper and pen. There’s nothing wrong with doing it on a computer instead, but I personally find my ideas come out more truthfully when I handwrite them – typing is about crafting those ideas into a finished piece.

  1. Decide when you’ll write.

First thing in the morning is usually best for me, before I’ve turned on the radio, had a conversation with the kids or my husband. I’m reset after a good night’s sleep and I haven’t been influenced by anyone else’s voice. The truth is, with 5 year olds climbing into bed with me at 5.30am this doesn’t always happen. So do what works for you – your lunch break, while your dinner cooks or before you go to bed. Just make time for it somehow

  1. Set yourself a goal.

You can set a period of time that you have to write for – 15 minutes is a good starting point – or a page count you have to meet, for example, 5 handwritten pages

2. Start writing.

The key here is not to let your thinking, censoring mind to get in the way. You keep your pen moving and you just write whatever comes out. Don’t go back to edit yourself. Don’t cross out. Just let it be. Don’t stop to think about what you’re going to say next. If nothing’s coming just keep your pen moving and write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until you have something to say.

3. Write about what ever pops into your mind.

Write about what you are going to do that day. How you cook your favourite spaghetti bolognaise. Or give yourself a writing prompt to get you started. “Today I feel….”. “I wish I had…” “What makes me really mad is…”

4. Don’t think. Keep writing.

4. Remember, you can always burn the evidence.

5. When you’ve reached your alotted time, or page count stop.

6. Read back over what you’ve written.

Notice the language you use, your tone, your vocabulary. This is your voice peeping through. Letting loose. This is the voice you need to use in all your writing.

7. Do it again tomorrow.

Write Club my weekly writing accountability group is the perfect place to find your voice, get your word count up and finish your writing projects. Enrolment is three times a year. Find out more or join the next term of Write Club here.

Hello

I’m Cate, a writer and mentor, and this is The Luminous, where heart-led coaches, creatives and lightleaders master content & storytelling so they can share their soulwork with the world.