How Jeff Goins Took Me Down a Peg – And How It Can Benefit Your Blog

finding your voice

Have you found your voice yet?

If you’ve spent any amount of time online, you’ve no doubt seen the 18-bajillion posts and podcasts telling you that you need to find it.

There’s so much finding your voice noise out there that it gets confusing and you start to believe that, next to oxygen, finding the right voice is the singular most vital key to your existence.

If you let it all get to you it can become a point of stress and distraction. You start thinking…

  • Am I writing in the right voice?
  • What should my voice be?
  • Which other successful blogger should I model my voice after?

Maybe the quest for your voice has kept you from moving forward. I mean, after all, based on all the content available online, why would you pursue A, B, or C project before you find your voice?

But understanding what your writing voice really is and learning how to develop it doesn’t have to be frustrating or stressful.

 

Avoidance Isn’t an Option

As an emerging blogger, you can’t avoid this issue. It literally rains finding your voice content in the blogosphere. I think I feel a drizzle right now.

Since you have to deal with it, you have a few options.

1: You can read everything that’s out there, become confused and distracted, and pull your hair out in clumps.
(I don’t recommend this option)

2: You can become fed up with the whole buzzword culture and cynically dismiss the whole concept as a bunch of echo-chamber filler.

3: You can be wise enough to realize that somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

Let me tell you a quick story about which one of those three options I picked.

 

Why Finding Your Voice Made Me Bristle

I chose option 2: Becoming a cynic.

I did so mainly because the vast majority of the finding your voice content you see online completely missed the mark with me.

They talk about finding your voice like it’s a lost pen that you find in the seat cushion of your car. “Hey, look! There’s my voice!”

Sometimes in comments, you’ll see it used as an excuse. “I’d love to do that… but I’m still trying to find my voice.”

Oh really? Where did you see it last? In the kitchen? Well, let’s start there and backtrack.

Lord.

Others misinterpret finding their voice as the question, “Whose writing style should I mimic?”

After reading so much of this off-centered “find your voice” stuff, I made a comment in a guest post I wrote for Write to Done that got a lot of attention.

 

finding your voice

 

Most readers agreed and found the comment amusing. Their encouragement convinced me I was right to scoff at the voice crowd. Until…

 

Enter Jeff Goins, Writer

If you’re not already familiar with Jeff or his blog Jeff Goins Writer, you really should be. Especially if you aspire to be successful online.

Not long after my public dissing of the whole voice-finding bandwagon, I came across some stellar content from Jeff that took me down a peg and changed my whole view of the subject.

His post, 10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice is a great exercise to begin identifying your voice. And guess what? It’s all about ways to determine who you really are.

It’s the most honest, simple, and articulate explanation of how to find your authentic writing voice I’ve seen – and for that reason, it now lives forever in my Evernote.

I’m not going to summarize the whole exercise here, because Jeff explains it perfectly and you really should read it in his words on his site.

Shortly after reading and re-reading Jeff’s post, I found a video interview Jeff did a while back called How I Built an Audience of 100,000 Blog Readers. In the video, Jeff again does a great job explaining the topic (and several other things)  thoroughly.

Watch the clip below. It’s just under 3 minutes. Then you can go watch the full interview. It’s worth watching, too!



Finally. A take on finding your voice that I can live with.

To summarize Jeff’s advice from the post and the video…

Your writing voice comes from…

  • who you really are.
  • your worldview.
  • your past experiences.
  • the things that interest you.

In other words, your voice is a matter of presenting your authentic self to your readers.

I’m not saying that’s easy to nail down by any means. In fact, it’s really tough for some of us.

 

Proceed – But Proceed With Caution

No one can say that I’m not willing to eat a little crow on occasion – and I’ve eaten some today courtesy of Jeff. It wasn’t bad. Kind of like chicken.

While Jeff’s explanation rings true with me and makes sense, I still want to wave a little yellow caution flag at you just a bit.

Don’t fall into the trap of following the herd when it comes to these popular concepts and buzzwords. I still feel that most people misunderstand what “finding your voice” means.

Don’t be taken in (and taken down) by all the hype around this whole “finding your voice” thing. Your voice won’t spring forth from you if you bear down and push hard like you’re trying to pop your ears in a plane. It doesn’t work that way.

Instead, take Jeff’s advice and approach it as a discovery process. Let your own personal style emerge as you become more familiar and more comfortable with who you are as a writer and a communicator.

 

You Type Now!
Have you struggled with this “voice” issue? How did you get around it? What other buzzwords drive you nuts? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

 

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About Gary Korisko

by Gary Korisko --
When he's not traveling around the country coaching sales managers and small business owners, Gary writes about The Art of Genuine Influence at Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter

Comments

  1. Laura Leigh Clarke says:

    I totally had this problem. I paid a blogging coach in my early days to help me “find my voice” and I must say it had me hung up on things I hadn’t even considered. What really made the difference to me and my style was getting out there and just writing and creating and do what I do. That’s the advice I give folks I coach now. We get the basics of what they want to do down, we get a bit creative and then the rest of it is all writing and doing the stuff your clients pay for. And bada bing – it works :-)

    Thanks for an awesome article Gary. Lovely to see someone cutting through the smoke and mirrors. ;-)

    • Well, hello there Laura!

      Credit where credit is due – Jeff did the cutting and pulled me out of the smoke with his content. I just happened to be listening when he did. Thanks for sharing your experience, too.

      • Laura Leigh Clarke says:

        Ah yes – and I think that’s a good point that applies to everything. When you have a good mentor and some good advice there is no more being stuck in the doldrums.

        I’ve heard you mention Jeff a few times now – I’m off to check out his material! ;)

  2. Buzzwords that drive me nuts . . . lessee . . . ALL OF THEM.

    Abundance. Coach. Lean. Engage(ment). Platform. Punching/hitting/kicking/doing mean things to fear.

    That’s just the last 15 minutes.

    The problem is this, though: the *idea* behind each one of those words is still worthy. It’s just the word that has become hackneyed–or worse, as you point out Gary, an opportunity for evading exactly what the words stands for. “I can’t write just yet–still finding my voice”–but you find your voice by writing!

    Good article, good thought, tough prescription.

    J

    • Ha, Jeremy. A man after my own heart.

      You know, I deliberated quite a bit about naming this blog because of the way some people throw around “authentic” so willy-nilly. But at the end of the day, it’s about how I try and represent the word, not about how others misuse it. I’ve also found a happy place with “engagement.” It’s so important in business relationships, I can’t ditch the word because of others, you know?

      Thanks for sharing that. What a great comment. “Doing mean things to fear” got an out loud laugh from me. Well done! :)

      • Exactly right about “authentic”: you *can’t* ditch the word because of others, and you can’t control how they use it. (And heaven forbid you become the “authenticity police”! Don’t think that would happen though.)

        Perhaps this is a lesson filed under “show, don’t tell”? By all means use the word if it’s what you mean, but you’re also still accountable for putting the truth to what’s said.

        You’re waving the yellow flag in the right direction: it’s up to those of us consuming the information to pierce the veil of what is *said* and get to the meat of what’s *meant* and *done*.

        J

        • You can’t tell, but I’m applauding you, Jeremy. Really well-said.

          I love this community. Smart people saying smart things!

          Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. I hope to hear from you more here in the comments!

  3. A ha, so *you’re* the one who was going to delete the entire internet. ; ) I’m intrigued by all the “finding your voice” content all over the interwebz myself. Intrigued because I don’t fully understand the issue, I guess. Because fer cryin’ out loud, you just sit down and do the work and write, write, write. Your voice is already there. You can find ways to amplify it or feel more comfortable expressing it, but it’s not like your imaginary friend from grade school — it already exists, whether you tap into it or not.

    This reminds me of when I used to help high school students who were writing their college application essays, and boy they would struggle with feeling just like everyone else and having nothing unique or interesting to write about to the point of inertia. I would say to them: tell a story only you can tell. None one else can write the essay you are going to write, because no one else has your particular story to tell, with your experiences, your thoughts, your perceptions, etc. The topic of you is your exclusive territory, your experiences are uniquely your own. And it’s the same with “voice,” I reckon.

    Thanks for expressing your thoughts about this topic in a way that only Gary can. ; )

    • No, Kimberly. I’ve given up on that plot to delete everything. I’m working on something else now :)

      I agree with your “a story only you can tell” advice. It’s hard to grasp when you’re the one going through it, but it really is a process that has to be experienced. And, I suspect it’s a process that continues to evolve with time.

      Always nice to see you here, Kimberly! Thanks.

      • I agree about it being a process that has to be experienced. I sometimes forget I was once like those high school students I used to help — clueless about my voice or my unique story or any of it. : )

        • I’d say I *WAS* clueless before, too. Except I’m not really sure where my keys are right now, so maybe past tense isn’t appropriate for me just yet :)

          It’s very easy to forget what it was like “before we knew what we now know.”

          How’s that for confusing?

  4. I think anytime someone says, “I am going to be this or that” means that they aren’t finding their voice. It means they are going to play some sort of part. The authenticity will shine through. Your voice might vary from cynical to preachy to whatever depending on the subject. The trick is to write from the heart and write to your audience as if they were one person and you were having a conversation with them.

  5. Jim Bessey says:

    Well it sure was fun when you threatened to blow-up the Internet, Gary–a bold and audacious threat!
    Have to agree with you that the “method of searching” for this mysterious missing Voice is the annoying part of it all. Like we’re going on a scavenger hunt to find the pieces or something, sheesh!

    When you first asked me to read through your ebook, I recall questioning some of your word and phrase choices. And you replied, “Well, hell, that’s the way I talk!” Yup, THERE was your voice–not missing or lost at all. :-)
    In some ways, “finding your voice” is actually a fairly complicated process of discarding OTHER people’s voices, of learning how NOT to copy other writers’ styles or word choices. I’m sure most of us clearly remember the first few times an English teacher red-penned us for using cliches and hackneyed expressions. Oops!

    One of the most wonderful ways to find your voice is to stop looking for it–stop trying to “Write” (capital W) and begin trying to express yourself your own way. Sounds easy, but it’s actually quite difficult, since we spend our lives learning to emulate those traits we most respect in others.

    So anyway, here I am just babbling along like I often do. Enough of that. I’ll go listen to that Jeff Goins interview now. Thanks so much for being so generous in sharing this with us, Gary!

    • I said I’d *delete* it, not blow it up. But if I did either, what would I do with my spare time? :)

      I really like the idea of a process of discarding others’ voices and not copying them. That’s interesting. Thanks for the comment and enjoy the interview. I’ve watched it several times now. Good stuff!

  6. I was actually in Jeff’s Tribewriters course earlier this year and it helped me tremendously (OK, here’s a little plug for him! :-) ). I was used to rather academic writing, but in the course he points out so many other ways of writing that I hadn’t considered. I’ve been playing with it a bit since then, and I’m not totally sure I’m there yet, but I do believe that a person’s “writing voice” is NOT a figment of your imagination! It’s hiding within each of us, and with a bit of coaxing – and yes, coaching (sorry Jeremy) – and experimenting, it does find it’s way out into the light. Jeff’s illustration of how his son recognized Jeff’s wife’s voice, even though she couldn’t be seen, is a visual demonstration of an abstract concept. It figures a great writer like Jeff would come up with it!

    In fact, I think a person’s writing voice really comes out when they tell stories. Many people don’t think to tell stories; they go right into explanations. But as we can see by the quick little story of Jeff’s son, they help us connect with our audience in a unique way. In fact, I wrote about it on my blog: http://convergenceinthecommons.com/2013/06/24/what-do-shoes-and-stories-have-in-common/ .

    Tell stories, be honest with yourself, and find your voice.

    • Thanks Deborah.

      I’ve heard great things about Tribewriters. There’s a lot about it in the full length video I linked to. Thanks for your take on this. Nice to see you here!

  7. evanhadkins says:

    It hasn’t really bothered me because I’m comfortable writing. The best advice I’d heard is to write about what you care about and what you want to communicate. Do this as simply and clearly as you can – and you will find your own voice too. I do agree with everything Jeff says.

  8. Sophie Lizard says:

    To me, your writing “voice” is like your hair:
    - You might not get born with it, but it develops over time whether you do anything to help it along or not.
    - Sometimes it goes in unexpected directions.
    - You can try to copy someone else’s because it looks good on them, but their style won’t always suit you.
    - You don’t have to search for it, because it’s part of you.
    - But if you ever lose it, you’ll notice the difference!

    • Speaking of people with a distinguishable writing voice… Hello, Sophie!

      The hair analogy is fantastic. Please tell me you’ve written something on that? If not, you really need to.

      Thanks for sharing that. I think that one is going to stick with me. It’s always nice to see you here, Ms. L :)

      • Sophie Lizard says:

        Nope, I only just thought of it. This comment *is* me writing something on it… I wish I had a database of all my comments to trawl through for blog post ideas!

        • That was off the cuff? Impressive. You really should record things like that. Not that you’re at a loss for topics… but you could share your left-overs with your friends :)

  9. Great post Gary, I agree there is a lot of buzz about “finding your voice” out there. I also admit that I’ve stressed over it a little bit. Like when I started my first blog, I wanted to write just like Ash Ambirge of http://www.themiddlefingerproject.org/ because she has this awesome “in your face” kind of voice. I thought hey I swear a lot in person, why can’t i get away with it in my writing?

    But the truth is, I only talk like that with people I know well. I think that writing is probably pretty similar to the way you speak in real life. You speak in different tones around different people. I think that my current writing on my new blog is a little more tame and “professional” but once I start to get comfortable with my audience I think that a whole new voice will emerge once again and that’s ok because it will evolve organically over time.

    So I guess my point is that I’m not worrying about it much because I know it will come out as I come out of my own shell.

  10. Very true Gary you must find your voice. It was easier for me in the beginning because I was thrust into the position as social media and marketing manager and had to produce content. Since then I have blossomed as a blogger and have found the subjects I like to talk about the most.

  11. Hi Marianne!

    Ash is one of the most unique, fun voices online. It’s tempting to want to shave a chip off that charismatic block, isn’t it?

    I think you’re right. Once you find a comfortable groove, I’m not sure you’re “done” at that point. I’m thinking it continually evolves. It’s pretty easy to tell who write naturally and authentically… the way you’d assume they talk to people. Jeff, for instance, Sophie does (below), John Morgan, Pat Flynn – and I’m sure you can name a bunch more.

    I like the tone of your content so far. Thanks for speaking up!

    ***By the way, everyone, if you put a link in the comments, you will go to spam and I’ll have to approve it. To make sure your comment doesn’t get sent to spam and get overlooked, it’s usually best to not use links. No scolding… just a tip :)

  12. Gary! I freakin’ LOVE your voice!

  13. Renia Carsillo says:

    As a recovering cynic, I feel you!

    It seems like the whole “advice on growing a blog/online business” world is in love with the idea that authenticity = success. That simply isn’t true, which contributes to some of the cynicism. Yes, figuring out who you are is important, in life AND business. But equally important is the understanding that most great writing is WORK as much as creativity. I feel like what is missing in the authenticity conversation is the CRAFT of writing well. Jeff does this artfully and we could all learn from it.

    I wish all of the bloggers writing about finding your voice would add a disclaimer on finding a style book, possibly an editor, and a policy of not publishing first drafts. Our writing doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to show enough respect for our readers to work on it. It feels like too much of the blogging community spends a lot of time going on about authenticity and little time on the work involved in the life of a writer.

    • Great points, Renia!

      I especially like your comment about the work associated with becoming a better writer. Jeff is most certainly a skilled writer, but at no time have I ever felt like he was writing to showcase his vocabulary or to impress. He pulls off both ends of that equation very well.

      That’s why I (and I suspect most others) appreciate his work so much.

      I feel like the craft and authenticity need to find an intersection where they can both live :)

      Thanks so much for your take on this. Great points – and well said. I hope we see more of you here!

  14. Your Writer Platform says:

    Some people have such bold, larger-than-life personalities that it oozes out in everything they do – including their writing. These people confidently share who they are with the world.

    Others have to first learn who they are – and accept it – before they can express it.

    Love the discussion here, Gary!

    • Kimberly – I’ve always been in awe of those who “peg themselves” so easily. I think for most of us, it’s a significant process. Great to see you as always!

  15. Good piece, Gary. Sometimes I think you need someone else to tell you where your voice is… in my case, my wife is one of my best critics. She tells me when I have written something and it’s really in my voice vs. in someone else’s voice. In my case, I’m at my best when I include some humor, but not too much. When I include a dose of personality, but not over-the-top personality. When I try to be sweet, but not saccharine. That’s where I’m at my best. But sometimes I need my wife to tell me when I’ve hit the mark.

    • That’s a good point, too John.

      I have a few people I like to run a post by occasionally before I hit “publish” too. It is much easier for a third party to see the higher-level view sometimes, isn’t it?

      Thanks for sharing that!

  16. Awesome post, Gary. Jeff Goins is a great teacher. I just listened to his guest interview on Social Media Examiner last week and I was simply inspired. Thanks for doing it again:) I appreciate your follow on Twitter and I look forward to learning even more from you. Have a great weekend.

    To Your Success,
    Stacie Walker
    Woman in Leadership Founder

Trackbacks

  1. […] A hundred other people’s explanations of voice left me cold and unconvinced. But for some reason when I heard it from Jeff’s perspective it all made sense. I was so floored I wrote a post that week about my change of heart. […]

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