Once upon a time, I worked in the high tech industry PAD (pre-advertising-days).
I did my best to fit in with all the tech brainiacs – even wore my hair in a respectable twist, donned dark colors and as little makeup as possible…except gloss, that was and still is a non negotiable.
My career took me to one of the biggest international semi conductor companies in the world working alongside “the big guns” – these were the dudes (no dudettes, except yours truly) that worked closely with NASA, the DOJ and a few other top gun branches of the gov.
All of this is to say, these were some serious, men in black types.
As the 3rd chair on our team, I was tasked with telefax communications (telefax, I’m dating myself aren’t I?! Lol!).
One day, our lead walks the 12 feet to my office sets a sheet of paper on my desk and says “this could use some warming up.”
When I looked down at the document I saw it was a letter I wrote to well, I don’t remember who but I do remember thinking it was a completely appropriate, well written follow up letter.
“what do you mean by warm up?” I said, “are we going up to bat or something?”
(always a wise ass)
My letter was well organized, well constructed, perfectly polished but – after it was brought to my attention – it sounded like a form letter you get from your bank along with your new credit card and pin code.
It was robotic, manufactured and would’ve left an unappetizing taste in the mouth of an important multi-million dollar client.
Needless to say, I did my best to warm it up – it was still pretty lifeless though – but I struggled because I didn’t understand the importance of voice.
Emails, landing pages, Home, About and Sales pages that are filled with jargon, fear, empty promises, hype, and desperate pitches are about as interesting as the invite you got in the mail last week from Discover Card.
The missing ingredient is voice and tone.
How you find yours isn’t easy – anything that takes time isn’t – but it is simple.
You already have all sorts of conversations going on in your head on the daily.
When you sit down to write something (a letter, a page, whatever), you immediately begin “thinking” about how you want to say it – you already know what you want to say, it’s the conversation playing inside you.
And with your brain turned on, you write…uninspired, unimaginative, back click worthy ho hum words, sentences and paragraphs.
See, that’s the thing about voice – it doesn’t come from your head.
Voice isn’t a matter of intellect
…it’s a matter of heart.
The moment you turn on your thinking, you shut out your voice.
Like I said, not easy especially since we’ve been taught to think before we speak, or write.
The question isn’t do you have a voice – the answer is always yes! – the question is, do you know what it sounds like?
Spend some time free-writing, like the exercise I shared last week from the book Writing Down the Bones.
Write without editing.
Put your original ideas – the things you most want to share or say – down on paper.
Set them aside for a few days and when you come back to them ask yourself, is this something I would enjoy reading?
If the answer is yes (and if you’ve written without boundaries it will be), notice the urge to edit for perfection or appropriateness come up.
And as soon as you notice it, drop it like it’s hot.
Edit for grammar, punctuation and inclusion but leave your voice alone – it’s been left on the bench long enough.
This is why they call writing a practice, it doesn’t happen without many times at bat – not if you want to write stuff people actually want to read, even web pages!
There is no wrong voice.
There is just voice.
Are you using yours?