In Search of My Voice

By: Guest | April 12, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Brent Carnduff.

Ahh voice – that mystical, alluring, and evasive quality that defines successful writers and defies the rest of us.

Where does it come from? How do you find it? As near as I can tell, its much like what Supreme Court Justice Robert Stewart said about pornography, “It is hard to define, but I know it when I see (read) it.”

I am certainly not an expert on voice, but I recognize a good use of voice when I read it. That’s probably true of most readers – we know what we like and how we would like to come across as writers.

I know I enjoy Marcus Sheridan’s passion and conversational tone, the playfulness and energy of Gini Dietrich and the Spin Sucks community, John Falchetto’s calm yet inspirational words, Ryan Hanley’s humor and encouragement, the honesty of Craig McBreen, and the sincerity of Jeff Goins.

In my own writing, I mostly hear “teacher” which is what I was for 15 years prior to joining the online community. Not that teacher is always a terrible voice to have. I write for a financial advisor community that is relatively new to the online marketing world. I try to use my blog to educate and assist that community on marketing “best” practices.

However, too often the “teacher” voice I hear is also a little boring or mundane; too full of facts and not enough personality.

On occasion though, I see a hint of the voice I am looking for; a voice that still reads “educator” but also conveys charm, wit, and inspiration (I say with all possible humility). It is that voice I am ever in search of as a writer.

Although I haven’t yet discovered the secret to “finding” voice, I have, I believe, uncovered some of the truths around the subject of “voice.”

  1. Be true to who you are.  You can’t be successful mimicking another writer. As much as I enjoy the Sales Lion as a reader, I can’t pretend to be Marcus Sheridan. We have different personalities, backgrounds, interests, and experiences from which to draw.
  2. Always consider who you are writing for. For instance, although I will, at times, use bad language, I would never curse in my blog – and don’t follow or read blogs in which bad language appears regularly. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the reader. However, I have seen Gary Vaynerchuk, a well-known author and speaker within the social media world – and someone I have a lot of respect for – stand up in front of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and swear throughout his presentation. He is able to make it work. I guess it may come back to “being true to yourself” to some degree. Nevertheless, it is important to consider your audience.
  3. What is your background? I’m a teacher and basketball coach – that is part of who I am and will always be part of my voice. I am a male, Caucasian, ex-pat Canadian, and father of two- all also part of who I am, and factors that will affect my voice.
  4. What is your subject area? Some subject areas or industries aren’t as open to humor and silliness, while others don’t appreciate an overly serious writer.
  5. This one I have to take on faith rather than experience, but I have heard or read accomplished writers say your voice will become stronger and more representative of you with practice and experience.

Maybe the biggest truth is we don’t actually have to “find” our voices at all? Maybe we each have our voice already and only have to hone it and be true to it?

Maybe I can still be a “teacher” but work on revealing more of myself within my writing. Gini can be “snarky” but still show compassion and understanding (which she does), Marcus can inspire while still admitting mistakes (which he does all of the time).

What about you? Whose writing do you follow? What do you look for or find in the “voices” that you follow? Are you comfortable with your voice? What tips can you share to develop it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Oh, by-the-way, I should warn you – my voice, once fully realized, will also probably be prone to the occasional bouts of bite and sarcasm.

Brent Carnduff is the founder and president of Echelon Business Solutions, an internet marketing company that specializes in working with firms in the financial services industry. He is also author of the Inbound Marketing Insider blog . You can follow on Twitter , Facebook, LinkedIn, or his new favorite, Google+.

  • It takes several months of daily writing to really start to find your voice and even then you will see it continue to grow and evolve.


       @TheJackB Hi Jack,
      I am only averaging 2-3 posts per week now, but have noticed a difference over time. My goal has always been to move towards daily writing and post – maybe its time to make the jump! Thanks for the feedback.

  • I agree with Jack. I guess most who read my blog find me to be the person who says what they always wanted to, but are afraid to.
    That has developed over time. I am honest and painfully straightforward. That has worked for me and I see no need to change it.


       @NancyD68 Thanks Nancy!
      I’m a big believer in the “honest and straight & straight forward” approach myself. Still find it easier said then done sometimes though! : )

  • I’m still not fully there. I hold back on certain aspects of my personality, at least in my blogs. They show up on Facebook and Twitter though. I’m working on letting more of me be heard in the blogging though.


       @KenMueller Thanks for reading Ken!
      I’m with you! What is making the difference for you? Has it been just a matter of time and experience, are you blogging more often, or just becoming more comfortable with the idea of putting yourself out there?

  • Hi Brent,
    Thanks for the mention and for including me in such great company!
    Gini, John and Marcus are good people and they have helped me immensely, and I’m looking forward to meeting them (and hearing two of them present) in New York. Gini is coming to Seattle for sure, so maybe, just maybe I’ll get her autograph then, … so says fanboy stalker 😉
    I certainly know about Ryan and Jeff and they’re certainly making a dent!
    1. I just wish I had Marcus’ energy … Dang! His enthusiasm is infectious.
    2. I sometimes curse, ever so slightly, just like in my everyday life, but Gary V. Woa! Oh, and Erika Napoletano anyone?
    I think the process of writing really brings out your voice, so what Jack wrote.
    I follow ’em all, from Zen-masters to potty mouths (see no. 2 above) and I rather like snarky people. Thanks, Brent.


       @Craig McBreen Good to see you Craig,
      You’re welcome and deserving!
      Marcus’ energy is off the chart – he sure makes it sound easy though. I punish myself every night when I’m going to bed – “I should be jumping on the treadmill instead!”  ; )
      Following other bloggers definitely helps! I have learned a lot from reading others and am finding more blogs that I enjoy everyday.
      Keep up the good work!

        Well, I could never run on the treadmill at night or stairmaster, or whatever.
        Not. For. Me. 🙂 But I still wish I had his energy.

        •  @Craig McBreen 
          Craig, could you do it 15 years ago? 

        •  @TheJackB  You, Sir have a point … I don’t think I could outrun a lion 😉


           @Craig McBreen  @TheJackB nice . . . : )

  • I’m a bit obsessed about the idea of voice – our speech patterns, tone, and vocabulary choices change according to context and platform. If I’m dealing with some really heady topic (as I’m often inclined to do), my authorial voice is pretty distinctive compared to something more introspective and personal. 
    Writing regularly is the key to discovering that voice. It’s often not what you first imagined. 🙂 


       @jasonkonopinski Hi Jason – thanks for reading! Point #5 is being reinforced pretty heavily today – might have to try writing more regularly! I’m guessing your change in voice relative to context and platform is a natural change rather than one you decide on?

      • I’d say that is a natural change, but one that has evolved over the years. Sociolinguistics is a pet interest of mine. 


           @jasonkonopinski Hey Jason – interesting – I think I would freeze up if I knew too much of the psychology behind it all! : )

  • jennimacdonald

    @Brent great post. I fight with finding the right voice at times when my audiences changes. I am very relaxed and carefree majority of the time but when I speak or sit on a panel I feel that I need to come across in a professional manner. I have a hard time being able to reflect my voice to the audience that is present. Any tips?


       @jennimacdonald  @Brent Thanks Jenni! Interesting point! I think at times its appropriate for your voice to change to some degree based on your audience. I am still more comfortable speaking than writing, but it still comes back to point #5 – experience and practice definitely make it easier to find your voice in speaking (and apparently writing : ) If speaking is something that you want to do, or find yourself having to do – try to set up smaller speaking engagements (local schools or colleges, chamber of commerce meetings, rotary meetings, etc.) to become more comfortable with it.
      Any other advice from the community?
      Thanks again Jenni – best of luck!

      • jennimacdonald

           @Brent Thank you. I agree that practice definitely helps, that is how I’ve gotten comfortable with video blogging. I have a lot of people say that I do a really good job in all of my video blogs but I remember back to a couple of years ago and that was not the case.
        More speaking engagements is the key, thanks!

  • Brent… 
    Wow…  To be included in a list of Bloggers of that caliber is a true Honor… Thank you.
    I can’t reiterate you’re very first point enough… Always be who your are.  It’s the only avenue to success… All your other points very important.  But Who You Are is Who You Are and to be anything else is going to make writing and learning and creating NOT FUN.
    I think you doing a very good job Brent and whenever you can slip the word “Pornography” into an otherwise professional piece of writing.  That’s a win in my book.


       @Ryan Hanley No doubt right?!
      Thanks for stopping in Ryan – good to see you! Your inclusion is well deserved in my book – keep up the great work!


    Thanks to Gini, Lisa, and the Spin Sucks community – had a great time today!

  • CloseToHomeMD

    When I first started blogging I didn’t understand the meaning of “voice” even though I knew one was expected to find one’s voice before one could be successful. I started out emulating someone I admired greatly, but my posts ended up very flat. I invited the readers of another blog, who I believed were the kind of people who would enjoy my blog to read some of my posts and give me input. AND THEY DID! They said: “we don’t know who you think your audience is.”  “We can’t actually understand you” and I realized I was writing my blog like I write a medical journal article or a textbook chapter. EEEWWE. Who would want to read that ? Then I just let myself be myself. Uncensored (but I never curse in public) and totally me. A little crazy, lighthearted, but yet dealing with serious topics.
    And so now I think I know the meaning of voice–it is writing from the heart instead of from the head. 
    Great post. Lots of good stuff to contemplate.


       @CloseToHomeMD Thanks for reading and for the insightful comment. Great idea to have readers tell you what they are seeing!

  • Since I became passionate about Public Relations I’ve been following thoughts of some of the most experienced PR and Media practitioners but being fairly new to this industry, I was intimidated to share my own ‘voice’. After all, I do not practice PR professionally and I am of non-English origin. 
    I truly wanted to add value to this amazing community and after reading a lot of blogs and articles, I started seeing pattern of common problems met by PR and Media pros such as: PR spamming, circulating old news, poor quality information etc. etc.. Then I became obsessed with my idea of creating Evoque – a free collaboration platform for PR and Media Relations, where both parties would be empowered with tools helping them to control quality of information: keywords filtering, warnings/blocking if it’s a spam.. etc etc. 
    It’s been almost a year since I’ve been working unstoppable on Evoque and finally we are approaching the launch day. If any of you wanted to test it, I would really really appreciate it. 
    Thanks again Brent for such powerful thoughts!

  • Brent – This is such a tricky thing, but I think the underlying sort of… facilitator is confidence in who you are, which you touched on in many ways in this post. I like the idea of bringing elements of your background into your voice. It always works better when you truly embrace who you are. But! You must be about some cool stuff! You must have done some stuff! And you must be doing stuff! I said stuff 3 times there. 


       @Ryan Critchett Good stuff Ryan! : )
      Thanks for reading. I appreciate your insight. I agree – to develop a successful blog, you must not only be true to yourself in your voice and in who you are, but you then must have something to share with your readers!

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