Does Your Writing Sound Like You? Why Voice Really Matters

I recently got back from a blogging/parenting conference called Mom2Summit, and while there, I attended a session by Janelle Hanchett who writes and runs a blog called Renegade Mothering.

This woman can write, guys. 

To say I was in awe of her and captivated by her talk is a SEVERE understatement.

Her talk was on finding your voice as a writer—and up until this point in my life, I assumed I really knew everything I needed to know about my voice and personality and who I was as a writer. I think I do for the most part. But I also found that she really made me think about what I’m writing, how I’m writing it and why I’m writing.

Here are some of her best tips to help clarify what I mean. I’m paraphrasing everything here, but this is what really resonated with me.

Tip 1: Produce the writing you want to write

This sounds like common sense, I know. But I realized that sometimes I’m writing what I think others want to read in a tone that I think other publications want me to sound like. It started to become more work and less joy. I realized that when I just write what I feel like—when I write for you guys—I usually end up writing what I actually want to write and what I enjoy writing.

Now, obviously if you have to pay the bills, there are some rules around this. But for the most part, if you write what you really care about, and in the style and tone that you want to write in, your work will be stronger.

Tip 2: Write to no audience

Before getting all caught up in your head about the words you’re using and the way you come across—just write. Write as if you didn’t have an intended audience in mind. I love this piece of advice because it just seems so freeing, doesn’t it? Try it out and let me know what you think. I have a feeling you may end up being 100% yourself. And that’s one of the best things you can do when writing.

Tip 3: Write stuff nobody will ever read

In addition to writing to no audience, actually write for no audience. Keep a journal and write in it for yourself. This is something I don’t do but definitely want to try out. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to write every day if we don’t get caught up on what we write and instead just start writing? There are zero expectations and limitations on this kind of writing. It can be crap, or it can be brilliant. Nobody will ever know until you decide if and when you want to put any of it out there.

The last note I took during the session was “Does it sound like you?” I love this final parting thought, because I realized some of the things I had been writing didn’t sound like me at all. So what the heck was I writing if it wasn’t me? My writing can't be strong and interesting if I'm taking out all of me. Instead it becomes boring and dull and with no real focus or point.

It was a 'Dear lord what have I been doing all this time??' moment for me.

Does your writing sound like you? Do you like what you’re writing? Do you like why you’re writing it? Once you narrow in on your voice, I think it’s easier to understand what your purpose is and why you’re writing it. 

Finally, when I asked Janelle to sign my copy of her book (it's called I’m Just Happy to Be Here… and it’s a fantastic read, by the way) she signed it with this comment: 

Use that fucking voice.

If there’s a more perfect way to end this post, I don’t know it.