Find Your Inside Voice. Send It Outside To Play.
When I say voice…
I mostly mean writing voice, style, tone, mood. The way we say what we say, the way we get our message across.
When I say inside voice, I mostly mean our natural, deepest voice, the one that comes from within, the one that speaks both to and from our most inner self.
It also happens to be the one that reaches other people’s inner-selves.
It’s important, this reaching other people’s inner-selves thing.
Why? Because inside is where change happens. Inside is where real decisions are made. Inside is where the potential lives.
If you write, coach, market or otherwise-try-to-influence people, you want to reach that part of your readers.
No, no, I don’t mean that everything needs to be cut-to-the-soul personal improvement stuff. Sometimes, you just need to sell a bar of soap.
But if you can get your message to reach people on a deeper-than-skin level? You’ll get past their defenses. You’ll change how they think. You’ll rewire their brains.
You’ll sell a lot more soap. People may not always know why they are buying your soap. But they will buy it, because you reached them, where it counts.
So how do you develop that inner voice?
I was tempted to be flip, and just mutter something about practice and being authentic, but that advice sucks. Trouble is, finding your inside voice can be a bit tricky. They like to hide in closets, and they almost never come when called.
But I do have a few tips that might help. Ahem.
- Carefully limit and curate what you read, for just a little while.(Other people’s voices can drown out and overwhelm your own. And cluttered RSS feeds? That’s like giving your inner voice a forest of giant IKEA boxes to play hide-and-seek with.)
- Don’t worry about sounding like an authority, just this once. (Really. You can go back to playing guru next week. It’ll be ok)
- Free-Write. No censoring, no editing in process. Gag your inner editor for a little while. (If you need help with this, buy Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down The Bones” (it’s awesome) or for a quick summary, there’s an old post over on MindTweaks, The Humble-Sketch Write.)
- If you feel the need, start a separate blog for practice.(Because in some vocations? You need to stay professional. I get that. But by practicing being unrelentingly deeper in public, even your tidy, clean, professional voice will become deeper and more real.)
Ready for more?
I don’t have any real reason for breaking the list up, but it seemed to need room to breath, a bit of space so that the bits and pieces could sink into the brain.
Here’s the rest!
- Speak from your pain, doubt and confusion (It’s harder to fake it, or pretend to be someone else, when you write from your pain and discomfort.)
- When all else fails, write about how much writing sucks, or how much not-knowing sucks. (Nearly *everyone* relates to this particular pain, so it’s a good place to start.)
- Let yourself bleed onto the page. (They’re just words. It won’t violate any health laws. And you can always soak it in bleach, later.)
- Don’t worry so much about sounding like someone else. (Yes, the goal is to find your own voice. But borrowing someone else’s voice to get past the gates? It can help. It’s ok to be influenced by people you like and respect, people who think like you do. Give them credit for the inspiration, and it’ll be ok. Really.)
- It’s ok to be a little scared when you hit “submit” (It’s also ok to be a lot scared. Being scared to publish? It usually means you touched something real and deep within yourself. Speaking from personal experience, as well as what I’ve seen from others, it’s those scary-as-hell bits of writing that change readers into fans, and serve as turning points in so many ways.
Yes, you really need to hit “Submit”.
Or “publish” or “share” or whatever your software program calls it. You need to send your inner voice outside to play. It needs sunlight. Fresh air. Interaction with others.
It needs to learn social skills, and confidence. It needs to skin its knees, get picked on by a bully or two, and learn that it (and you) will survive.
The irony in all this?
This post doesn’t reflect a whole lot of my inner voice.
It isn’t particularly vulnerable. It doesn’t tell you about the years of pain and freakouts and fears and OMG-what-will-they-thinks?! that have happened over the years.
It doesn’t speak to the frustration of having some of my deepest, wisest writing ever be *entirely* misunderstood, or what happened when the oh-how-paranoid fears of plagiarism became real, or the endless number of other over-wrought issues I’ve wrestled with.
But because I’ve shoved my inner voice out into the play yard so often, I’m comfortable saying things like “Really. You can go back to playing guru next week. It’ll be ok.” and “Let yourself bleed onto the page. They’re just words. It won’t violate any health laws” even in the middle of serious advice about writing.
Or when I’m selling soap.
There was a time when I would have edited those lines out. There was a time I wouldn’t even have allowed them to sully the seriousness of the message.
But these days, I don’t even think twice about those little statements of voice. I don’t struggle over them, fret, debate if they’re appropriate, or go into an uncertain meltdown about if they should stay or go. I’m comfortable with writing my own writing, as Abby Kerr put it last week.
I don’t mean that writing is easy, now.
It isn’t. I still struggle.
But it is a lot easier.
And it’s certainly a lot more me.
Whatever any of your voices have to say, I’m listening. And if you’re brave enough to put your inner voice out there to play? Drop me a link to it in the comments, and I’ll add your post to the list. That way it’s sort of like being on the playground together. We can even share snacks, if you like. Animal crackers, maybe.
It seems like an animal cracker kind of day.
And while you’re pondering animal crackers, here are two awesome bloggy examples of Inner-Voice-isms that I stumbled across yesterday:
The Post That Took Three Years to Write
(from Mary Havlicek)
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
(from Andrew Lightheart)
Go read. Enjoy. But comment first, please.
I’m greedy like that.