Finding My Writing Voice
Finding My Writing Voice
I thought I wasn’t a writer.
Sure, I earned a bachelors and masters in English and learned how to impress professors with lengthy sentences stuffed with semi-colons and fancy, sesquipedalian words. I even worked for a publishing company, where I was surrounded by award-winning authors. And over the course of 18 years with CZ, the bulk of my work has been crafting marketing copy, ghostwriting, and editing.
But none of that made me a writer. Because, quite simply, I didn’t really write.
I knew the right way to write. An em-dash here. A stronger verb there. And a non-passive voice everywhere.
But I didn’t have a voice.
Voice is one of the most nebulous aspects of writing, difficult to define to someone who has only written for an A in the grade book. Voice isn’t about rule-following. Voice is how you interpret the rules of writing.
Voice is personal — even sensual — like the laundry scent on your clothing that people smell when they hug you. The signature pink lipstick people remember after you’ve flashed your smile. The laugh that ends in a snort. Voice is memorable. It’s what lingers after people finish reading a social post, a blog post, or a chapter in a book.
But you don’t find your voice by staying silent — or by pages remaining blank. As I learned, you have to actually write.
A few months ago, I received an email from Dave (my boss and writing mentor), who said something like this: “I am stunned by how you’ve upped your writing game the past couple years. I don’t know to what to credit it, but it’s incredible.”
His words carried more weight than the A’s I received on papers about William Blake’s use of sprung rhythm. But his observation rang true. I felt the change. Words loosened. When tasked with a writing I assignment, I didn’t agonize about what I was going to say or how I was going to say it.
In 2015, I committed to writing daily on my Instagram platform, where I tell stories and share insights about buying, selling and decorating with vintage items. Sentimental stories share space with humorous moments and practical insights. Admittedly, I cringe when I read my posts from the early days. Stories were forced, and my structure was rigid. But day after day I wrote. I toyed with turns of phrases. I learned how to get to the point with a story. I found power in brevity.
Thousands of posts later, the caged bird began to sing — or at least chirp.
Theory into PracticeThrough my writing on Instagram, I was asked to write articles for a magazine focused on flea market décor. Nights and weekends, I would tackle the freelance work, forced to think of fresh ways to tell stories about vintage living within the confines of a 400-word limit. Forced to find the big idea. Forced to think of tension, and how to pull a reader through from beginning to end. Forced to think about what makes a quote poignant. Forced to find cadence.
For the first time in my life, I was writing outside of work. For myself — about something I had something to say. I wrote because that’s what writer’s do. A writer has to do more than believe they can write or think about writing or talk about writing. A writer’s gotta write.
Whatever your area of expertise — a leader, a consultant, a photographer, an artist, a designer — you “gotta” put theory into practice. And practice it every day!
A designer on Instagram reached out to me and said that while she isn’t a writer, she could identify with my struggle to find a voice. “It’s important to find my point of view,” she said, “a style of decorating that is authentic to myself and takes discipline every day to find it.”
Discipline. It’s why I am here today, writing — actually writing. And saying something I never thought I would say: Maybe, just maybe, I am a writer.