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Finding Your Writing Voice: The Challenge of Telling Your Story

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”
~ Dr. Howard Gardner, Prof. Harvard Univ.

“You’re a great story teller! You should write about your experiences.”

You’ve heard this so often that you decide to use those experiences to create a blog. You buy a domain name, install WordPress, and get your blog set up just the way you want it to look.

You sit down to write but the words come out flat, even phoney. You can’t quite infuse your writing with the same captivating authenticity with which you tell your stories in person. What is happening?

Could it be that you are missing the interaction with a live audience?  Are you missing the furrowed eyebrows, fascinated faces or raucous laughter?

Without this immediate feedback, you may feel a like you’re in a void or have a persistent sense that “something is missing!”

This leads to you wondering if you are getting your message across. If you are lucky, you receive feedback in written comments or email replies. But sometimes, you might not get any feedback at all.  Uncertainty begins to creep in.

When your writing voice feels forced or you’re uncertain, you begin to lose confidence.

Where is that voice that can hold an audience with ease?

Looking in All the Wrong Places

When I began writing articles for guest blogs, finding my voice became a challenge. I never had this problem telling my stories in person. In fact, I am a pretty good storyteller and a pretty good writer. So now that I was sharing my story with others, what was the problem?

To get to the bottom of it, I hunted for answers. I tried free worksheets which guided me to focus on my target audience, my passion, my product and how I was different.  I read articles about finding your voice.

I followed all the advice, but my writing was still wordy and felt stilted. I became disillusioned.

Three Secrets Great Writers Know

Finally, with the help of a few people (one a super writing coach) and my own intuition, I discovered what other writers know about telling their story.

Secret #1: Write for Your Audience

Much like telling a story in person, you have to be aware of who your audience is online.Click To Tweet

In audience-based marketing, you are writing for a specific client. So keep that client in mind! Other things to be clear about are the problems you are solving for them and how they feel about those problems.

When you are clear about who you are writing for, what their problem is and how you are solving it, then your message will be relevant.

That was my problem: I temporarily lost sight of my target audience and their issues. No wonder I wasn’t sure about my message!

Secret #2: Trust Your Inner Voice

Reading other bloggers’s work is great for inspiration and information. But at the same time, if all you do is absorb other bloggers’ styles, you run the risk of loosing your own message and voice. Your own message and your own voice need to shine through. Learning to listen to that feeling that says, “Something isn’t quite right here” is important. That intuition or inner voice is usually correct.

Listening to your inner voice takes practice and trust. A great way to start is to recall all the times you didn’t trust your intuition and regretted it. This will help you to notice signals you missed in the past. Those signals could be a feeling, a voice, a thought, repetitive thoughts or words or dreams.

The next time you get that feeling or thought, trust it and follow what it tells you. The more you listen and act, the stronger your intuition will become. And the stronger your intuition, the more naturally your own message and voice will flow in your writing.

All my life I have tried to listen to this inner voice. When I don’t listen, things get messed up. When I listen to my authentic self, everything begins to flow.

Secret #3: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Every day, you’re reading and commenting on several blogs. As you read you may wonder when – or if – your writing will ever sound that great! This kind of wondering lets doubts creep in. And once doubt creeps in, it’s hard to feel confident in your own writing.

Not long ago, I noticed that the more blogs I read, the less confident I felt about writing my own. I began to feel intimidated by some of those great pieces I was reading.

My confidence was restored when I finally sent off my first guest post – and it was published! I then had visible evidence that I did have a unique voice. And although it was inconsistent at first, over time the inconsistencies lessened.

Now, a few months down the road, I have an engaged readership who lets me know what they need. This is confirmation to me that, as a storyteller, I did find my writing voice.

Meeting the Challenge of Telling Your Story

Being a natural in-person storyteller is a great gift. But it can also lead to challenges as you struggle to convert your storytelling skills into an online writing voice.

The key that helped me in my journey was learning to see that  writing, much like storytelling, has three elements that all come together and reflect your voice.

In writing, they are:
• Address your target audience and their problem.
• Trust your inner feelings to write from your own perspective.
• Avoid comparing your voice to another voice. Each is unique!

And of course, there is one final ‘secret:’ write, write, write! The more you write, the clearer your voice will become.

I still have times of doubt about my writing, but I now trust my overall feeling to let me know if I am on track or not. When an article flows out of me and onto the page with rapid ease, I know it is good!

Do you struggle to infuse your natural storytelling voice into your writing voice? How you know when your own writing is on target? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

About Carolynne Melnyk

Carolynne Melnyk is a coach, mentor and workshop facilitator with over 25 years experience helping others. She uses the 3 Principles as foundation for helping people who feel let down by life to find inner solutions to outer situations. This process helps them reclaim their innate joy, peace and contentment. She can be found at Living Life in Joy.

31 comments

  1. Thank you, Carolynne!

    This article is insightful, timely, and well-written. Last week I sent out my latest newsletter. A longer version of the main article is on my website and links to it went to several groups on social media.

    I had struggled with this article for too long, knowing what information it needed to contain, but seemingly unable to get it to flow. I finally had the breakthrough that I was not infusing it with my voice, story, and personal feelings about the subject. So the rewrite started, and the article flowed and was finished in less than 1 day — after a few weeks of struggle.

    All of the points you made are things that I’ve heard in one form or another in recent months, and they are finally sinking in. The great thing about your post is that all of the points are stated in one article, in a succinct, easily understood way.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Penny,
      I am thrilled that you found my article helpful, but even more so that you have found your voice. It feels so great when the ideas and writing flow with ease. At that moment you know you are right on. Once you know that feeling you look for it…that is your inner voice speaking.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

  2. The most difficult thing to do is to face the truth of answering to yourself, because theres one person you just can’t lie to! Those answers will be the stuff of great writing.

  3. Thank you for acknowledging that GREAT writing comes from within. I teach this to my content strategy clients–especially those who come to me and are wondering about their brand voice. The best thing you can do for your brand is be you, be authentic, be real, and writing about things that make you passionate! I wrote this post that some may find to be helpful as well: The Writing Whisperer’s Top 3 Content Marketing Secrets

    http://www.thewritingwhisperer.com/the-writing-whisperers-top-3-content-marketing-secrets/

    1. Hi Shannon,

      Thank you so much for your support and for sharing this link. I really like your point that the best content is found deep within your heart and soul. This point goes so well with listening to your intuition. When it comes from your authentic self, it feels so right.

  4. Thank you for the great post. I have gone through a long (and grueling) journey of finding my voice in my writing (thank goodness it is paying off!) and I very much resonate with #2 and 3. Trusting my intuition started out to be particularly hard for me but when I let my inner voice take over and just typed (hmm, being able to type fast helps because I can keep up with it!) I was often surprised at what came out when I went back to read it. Now I see the “evidence” and good feedback from my readers, I am more confident about trusting my inner voice. To that, I’d say do it, write the post and see how it goes!

    1. Hi Ling,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree just write and trust what you have inside. This is a great way to override your inner critic. It is so much about writing and more writing.

  5. Carolynne, I appreciate your ideas and how encouraging they are. As you were referencing the idea of one’s writing going flat, I was struck by a musical metaphor.
    Many of us who are music lovers can tell when a singer’s pitch is flat. Furthermore we can hear when a singer’s pitch is sharp. One tone is slightly below the correct tone and the other is slightly above it. Neither usually works for the listener…it’s grating and very uncomfortable. Yes, most listeners want to hear their favorite music sung in tune. So, it would seem to be for our readers; as you suggest in your three key points.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thanks for sharing the musical metaphor, it goes so well with writing. Just as musician knows when it doesn’t sound right, so too does the writer. Trusting what you are hearing then create beautiful music.

  6. Ah, the old “lost my writing voice” problem – I think we’ve all been there.

    Here are two more ideas that might be helpful:

    1) Find a live audience (ideally human, but cats will do) and tell them about the blog post you want to write, who it’s for, what points you need to convey, etc etc. Record the conversation. Then play it back and you’ll hear how you *speak* on the topic – use some of the same phrases when you write the post.

    2) Worry less. Your voice isn’t lost, it’s just staying out extra late and it’ll come home when it gets hungry. Seriously, the best thing you can do for your writing voice is to stop worrying about it and have fun writing. 😉

    1. Hey Sophie, it is an honour to have you comment on my article.

      I love the idea of a live audience, especially my cats. I often tape my ideas with my audience in mind, but having a live audience is more authentic. Thanks for this tip!

      Worry appears to be endemic. Taking a step way from expectations and yes, “have fun” is where to begin. Do all things in joy!

      Thanks for your support!

  7. “Trust your inner voice.” is probably the best secret of all. It takes courage. But then, as Brene Brown points out in her amazing TedTalk, the word Courage comes from the Latin word for heart. Trusting your inner voice could be just another way of saying write from your heart. What does your heart say?

    Connecting, engaging, growing an audience, is all about moving people. The writers who are most popular, especially on the web are those who move people emotionally.

    Thanks for this reminder, Carolynne.

    1. Hi Tom,
      You are most welcome! Trusting your inner voice and following your heart go hand in hand. I like your comment that connecting, engaging and growing your audience is moving people. Sharing that which is in your heart is a gift that grows when shared. That is why people resonate with it.

      Thank you so much for sharing your wise words.

  8. I found your article very helpful, since I am just starting this new adventure of blogging! I so related to being told at every dinner party what a great storyteller I was…. but am I a good writer? I am listening to my inner voice say “absolutely”!
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Kathy!
      Welcome to the adventure of blogging! It really is an adventure. I love it when I read “listening to my inner voice absolutely!” What a great way to go! All the best with your writing.

  9. Carolynne,
    Thanks for the post. It was a great reminder to keep focused on my writing and not get stuck comparing to others. As someone who is also looking to develop an audience in the self help niche, I am wondering if you have advice on how to develop posts, incentives, and products that are effective and valued. I want to put something out there that is good quality but without having a following first it’s hard to test those first pieces of writing and incentives.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Calvin,
      Thanks for your comment. I am pleased you found my article informative.

      As for your question regarding posts, incentives and products, I follow the Firepole model which is working great for me. I am presently building my on-line audience and establishing a relationship with them. I am in the process of creating products based on their needs. Everything I do is with my client’s needs as a primary focus. I find that in this way, I can best assisted them with the changes that will help them most. I hope this helps.

  10. Sounds like my favorite kind of advice: good information, easy to understand and can be used immediately. 🙂

    I actually don’t necessarily verbally tell stories that well. Maybe I think that because my sister is a genius at verbal storytelling or maybe it’s true. I am writing stories, and I am getting better. Do you have any advice for those of us who are in our flow only occasionally? Sometimes the words just flow through me to the point where I’m not even really consciously thinking about what I’m writing, but most of the time I can’t hit that zone. Any ideas on how to find that zone consistently? Thanks!

    1. Hi Denise!

      Thanks for your great question. First, try not to compare your self to your sister. She has her storytelling style and you have yours. That just implies that you have a different perspective from which to tell a story. Honor you unique style.

      Now to your direct question, write every day for 20 minutes or more. I begin my day by writing in a journal. It is totally free style which I call emptying my mind so I can be open to new ideas. This is a great practice because it doesn’t matter if it isgood of it makes sense, it is only important that I write. Initially it was challenging, but over time it has become part of my daily routine. This does help ideas flow. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

  11. Blogging really helped me find my writing voice. I had so much to say and was afraid to say it. Sometimes I still am because of hot topics or fear of stepping on toes. Overall, though, I have found my voice and intend to use it to improve the lives and knowledge of others.

    1. Hey Marcie!
      Blogging is a great way to finding your voice and letting it out. It is terrific that you will be using it help others. Using our gifts to help other is a wonderful service.

  12. Kitto–I think you will do just fine if you continue to be honest and sincere. Your sincerity was obvious and compelling in the comment you posted to Carolynne.

  13. Hey Carolynne

    Thank you for a very informative post. I am noticing that my writing feels flat more often than not these days. Of course, there are moments of clarity and brilliance, but they are few and far.

    Nonetheless, I am not giving up, simply because words make me happy 😉

    I do have one question though: how is it possible to restore your confidence before shipping out a completed work on a reputable site? That is, what if we don’t get opportunities to guest blog – like you did. How do we still listen to our intuition, follow our heart and create content that is memorable and enjoyable?

    In essence, I am asking how to believe in oneself if you are still ‘struggling’? Did I make sense? (Sorry if I did not :D)

    BTW, ‘Tip 3’ is spoke to me because I have a Ph.D in comparing myself to others and – not surprisingly – always falling short. Then I enter a vicious cycle of hating others for their success, followed by extreme guilt for belittling others. The end result? I end up hating myself, my creativity feels exhausted and the words just don’t come.

    So thank you for that powerful reminder! #HUGS

    Kitto

    1. Stories Constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal….. I believe these are the very words I spoke to my mother on the day I was born before leaving the hospital… Psalm 22:9-11 You cradled me as soon as I ( left) the womb! As the truth will stand the test of time!! Which also is scriptural. Relic/Terrill TC

    2. Hi Kitto!

      Thank you for your very open sincere comment. So often, we are our own worst critic whom we believe, this makes trusting our intuition more difficult. When you have completed an article notice how you feel. Just feel and see what comes up. Does it feel right, complete, says what you want to say. If nothing strikes you as off, then go ahead and send it out. It does take time and practice to hear your our inner voice that is not your critic!

      Once I send an article out I let go of the outcome. I trust that it will reach every one that needs to be reached. Something we have no control over and for me once it goes out it is out of my control.

      Keep writing, listening to your inner feelings and posting. This is the way to know what works and what doesn’t.

      I am pleased that #3 was reminder for you – keep your successes in the forefront and don’t worry about others.

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