How to Find Your Writing Voice (without a Single Keystroke)

Their cadence elevates them beyond countless wordsmiths vying for attention. Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, and Kurt Vonnegut are a few strong voices that come to mind.

Are you looking to impact readers with your unique voice? Well, the good news is you don’t have to travel far to find it…

I spent a weekend in 2002 visiting my girlfriend and her family in Maryland. We broke bread, attended an Orioles game, and celebrated her graduation from Johns Hopkins University.

Her family and I clicked. They liked me, and I liked them. The problem was that she didn’t like me anymore. So on the way to the airport, we broke up.

She claimed some of my parting words were, “I really like your family, but you make me sick.”

I don’t remember spitting that venom. Maybe I’ve chosen to repress the memory. Either way, I wish I never voiced those twisted thoughts because that ex-girlfriend did nothing wrong.

All she did was tell me how to save our relationship. Over and over, she mentioned how I wasn’t acting like the same person she fell for.

You see, I thought she needed me to be the ideal mate, so I transformed into a fictitious character whenever we were together.

Oh, my girlfriend’s at my side… Time to activate the fake Dave parade!

So I let her pick the flick, food, and fights. I aimed to say and do all the right things. I tried to play the role of the perfect guy because I feared I’d lose her if I was anyone else, especially myself.

I still lost her.

For years, I made this same mistake with my writing.

I’d sit down to write, spin a few sentences onto the page, only to immediately erase them. For anything that didn’t get deleted, I’d still end up disappointed because my words read nothing like other popular writers out there.

I also trunked everything that revealed personal stuff because I didn’t want people to see any part of the real me. Instead, I opted to write in the voice I thought readers wanted to hear. I strived to write words that would make them view me as perfect.

If any of that resonated then you’re a lot like me, and that means you’re guilty of seeking writing perfection.

The pursuit of the perfect words compels you to withhold your true writing voice. It prevents you from letting down your guard and sharing your unique take on this world because the moment your writing displays any of your irregularities, perfection roars that you can’t or shouldn’t share your raw writing inflections.

The pursuit of perfection doesn’t want readers to see the real you because if you share your flaws, readers may reject you.

I don’t know about you, but the possibility of rejection is terrifying every time I hit publish. However, you must recognize that rejection is not just a potential reality but an inevitability.

This inevitable rejection is what held back my true writing voice for years. For far too long, I spoke to the page the same way the young and dumb Dave acted around every girl he dated before the age of 24.

My ex-girlfriend moved back to San Diego a couple months after our breakup. We shared the same circle of friends, so we started seeing each other at multiple social herdings.

By that point, I’d found some peace of mind in our separation. I became comfortable just being me. I stopped thinking twice about showcasing my abnormalities around her, too.

Less than a year later, that ex-girlfriend became my wife.

She signed a marriage contract with this imperfect person. Fifteen years of wedlock later, she continues to challenge me to be a better husband, father, and man. I trust her more than anyone else in this bizarro world.

I’ve found there’s a lot of freedom in permitting yourself to be imperfect.

Of course, I can’t guarantee you’ll get back together with an ex or blend the perfect mix of imperfect words when you start acting more like yourself. However, I do believe you’ll get better at letting your true voice shine on the page.

I also think you’ll find more satisfaction in your writing. If anything, you’ll attract more people who are genuinely interested in who you are and what you have to say.

I finally found my writing voice when I started accepting and sharing my many faults. I ain’t the bestest or most perfectest writer, but this imperfect writing voice suits me. That may read odd so let me try to reword it, not to reach perfection, but to be as clear as possible.

I don’t know how to craft the perfect story or compile flawless paragraphs. All I know is that when I try too hard to please anyone, my writing often becomes unattractive to everyone.

I’d rather be the writer I am than the writer I think readers need me to be.

I’m thinking we’re on the same page because you’re still reading, so try these exercises to harness your imperfect writing voice the next time you write:

The truth is readers will likely dislike your writing if you try to please them with perfection anyway. You have your current friends because they enjoy who you are and how you communicate, so don’t try and be someone else on the page.

Straight up, you don’t need to find your writing voice or spend years honing it. You just need to start releasing the imperfect one you already possess.

Yes, that imperfect writing voice will change over time, but that’s true in everyday life as well. My mouthpiece today is nothing like the high-pitched voice I had twenty years ago, and that’s a wonderful thing.

How to Find Your Writing Voice (without a Single Keystroke)

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