It’s Hard to Love Your Own Writer’s Voice
Writers are a self-conscious lot, really. Even us copywriters, the loud ones drinking too much coffee in the corner. So it’s no surprise that the ‘non-writer’, especially a business person who’s a gun in their chosen field and already busy might freeze up in panic at the idea of writing their own copy and blogs. And I get that. As a business woman, I know only too well – you only have so much blood, sweat and tears to spend in one place. Not to worry. There’s a few simple phrases which explain how to ‘do’ it.
When you’re getting ready to write your own copy, people say:
- ‘Just do an easy, conversational style.’
- ‘Pretend you’re telling a story to a friend.’
(Or for those who want you to know they’ve had some sort of training in creative writing:)
- ‘Show, don’t tell.’
Hmmm, why don’t I ‘show’ you the bird?
The above advice is all very well and good, but to the newbie writer, or non-writer business owner, it’s as helpful as a softly spoken ‘Fuck off’.
Because let’s face it, there’s a reason everyone isn’t a professional writer of various sorts: This shit is hard.
It’s hard to ‘just’ write in easy, conversational style – all the while gently tickling your prospect to keep reading, or move onto the purchase. There’s lots of reasons why it’s hard: being self-conscious, wanting to be liked, and not wanting to take up space is a big one, especially for women. But from a technical standpoint, here’s why keeping the tone conversational or ‘writing like you’ – which sound so easy – can be so damn hard.
When We Try To Copy Speech, We’re Murdering Beautiful Butterflies
I know it sounds weird, but work with me.
When we’re in conversation with our friends, we’re in analogue mode. Our words and voices rise and fall in waves; they start, stop and intermingle. In conversation, we change our words and tone to suit our audience. And because we’ve evolved into such fabulously language-centred freaks we do it without thinking. Words spoken in easy, friendly conversation are like beautiful rainbow butterflies puffed along by different gusts of wind every time we retell a story.
When we try to write in any way that emulates conversation, what do we do? We fix them to a finite space and time: a hard and fast place.
We kill the pretty butterflies.
Yep, we stick a pin in those free-floating creatures and arrange their lifeless bodies as best as we can to try to make them look like they did in life. As hard as we try, our written dialogues, or conversational prose and narrative will never be the way they were in life, in the air, in conversation. They’re stiff, still, and dusty, and they read that way.
Which leaves the writer sitting there, reading over the stilted fragmented attempts of capturing magic, we end up thinking:
This is shit.
It happens to the best of us. The truth is, it takes time to love your writerly voice. It takes lots of practice at using your writer’s voice. Practice and feedback: it’s the only way to improve.
What if there’s a way fast track it?
I know the way.
You need to be brave though (it involves public speaking).
To Love Your Writer’s Voice: Try Storytelling
I’ve just finished writing a short story about my life for the next TenX9 Adelaide meet on 14 Feb. What’s the topic this month? What else, Love. I can just tell it’s gunna be a good one, I’m excited. I’m also stoked they emailed me and asked me to tell – yes, that’s a less-than-veiled brag.
I’m coming up to my 1 year anniversary as a storyteller at TenX9. I started it to stretch myself, and to answer the nagging inner questions: Can my writing entertain? Do people like my stories? (Hint – answers are: Yes, and They do.)
Before I left to tell my first story, I was so nervous I almost chickened out. I wasn’t one of those drama kids. I was shy. When we had to do talks or debating at school – oh the horror – I shook so much I couldn’t regulate my voice. Now though, I can honestly say I’ve come to love storytelling. Storytelling is a fantastic way of getting comfortable with your writing voice. Especially using theTenX9 format: You need to tell a true story about your own life.
- Telling true stories about your life forces you to ‘speak’ in your own voice – that scary, confronting thing you need to get comfy with if you’re writing your own copy.
- The act of telling forces you to read your story aloud, which is something I always recommend. If something’s wrong, it’ll sound wrong. Rehearsal is a free an excellent tool.
- You get ‘live’ and immediate feedback on what works and what doesn’t, whether you’re engaging your audience or not.
- A gentle reminder; storytelling isn’t copywriting.
But the skill in keeping a reader reading is the fraternal twin of keeping a listener listening.
If You Nurture Your Voice, It Will Grow
Storytelling is also a way for you to learn to work your writers voice, nurture it, and love it. Feed it: your ability will grow. Telling stories has been a huge confidence boost and secret weapon in my ability to find my voice and write ‘like me’. Telling a story to a crowd of strangers helps me write copy, blogs and articles which break the cold silence of the ether ‘out there’ in internet land: even as a consumer, people want to feel. Never, ever underestimate the power of narrative.
Yeah, I know I talked about killing butterflies, but here’s the thing – you can breathe life into them again. It takes practice. What better way to testing those butterfly wings than writing a story and then telling it? You come full circle, and you grow.
And as I said in my last blog Why Writing Off-Brand is My On-Brand, I firmly believe being able to write stories and think laterally about experience makes my copy and blogs all the richer: it can work for you too.
One More Reason to Try Storytelling
The last thing is that it’s a bit of a ‘sparkle’ activity. People fear public speaking more than death, said Jerry Seinfeld – break those barriers. Apart from all the copywriterly things I’ve said, storytelling is an experience which speaks to the most primal parts of our minds, and feeds our souls. I always walk away feeling comforted, slightly emotional, but elated by the intimacy in sharing human experience.
Is there a storytelling venue near you? May there be much, much more of it. And if you’re too busy to blog – I can help you with that.