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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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+.