Finding My Voice (part one of Unlocking Your Uniqueness)
Contributor
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
March 2012
Contributor
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
March 2012


By Rachel Thompson

 

As a nonfiction writer, I find having a theme usually comes second to finding my voice. You may hear this phrase often but what does it mean exactly?

 

Each of us has our own process. I learned mine after turning my blog into my first book and then writing my second book of all original material. I learned that people were interested in what I had to say if A) it was unique and B) I was consistent in my content.

 

FINDING MY VOICE

 

I began blogging as a humor writer in 2008 after a stint as a stay at home mom. Blogging is a perfect platform for anyone, particularly women, who have work experience, life experience, and are tired of talking to the Legos in the corner who don’t seem to want to talk back (which to be honest, we don’t mind all that much).

 

Establishing that I was funny kept people coming back. But more importantly, I understood that it was how I wrote my pieces that made people laugh – my delivery was snarky but above all else, achingly honest.

 

HAVING A THEME

Clearly I was funny, but so what? Lots of people are funny. What made me unique when I began writing my Mancode pieces was the level of honesty. People loved them and begged for more because they could relate. Finding your brand, what makes you unique is what will sell you.

 

And guess what? I’m not always funny. But I am always honest.

The theme of honesty combined with humor plays out again and again in my books (and still in my blog). As I move to my third book, which isn’t humor at all, I feel comfortable my readers can handle the transition.

 

What do you do that’s unique or special? That’s what will make people stick around long enough to keep reading your blog posts or books. How do you find your voice? Write what comes naturally. Don’t force it. Make people care.

 

Setting aside my own fears of losing readers, I realize as I write my nonfiction stories of love, loss, and grief in my new work, my theme of relationships is still consistent and my voice is only getting stronger.

Trust in your voice. It’s what made you be a writer in the first place.

 

Rachel Thompson aka @RachelintheOC is a published author and social media consultant. Her two books, A Walk In The Snark (#1 Motherhood) and The Mancode: Exposed (Top 100 Overall Paid) are both #1 Kindle bestsellers! When not writing, she helps authors and other professionals with branding and social media for her company, BadRedhead Media & @BadRedheadMedia. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut.

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Comments
  • Rachel Thompson

    Hillary, you clearly have wonderful feedback from your readers so you've struck a chord with them. That's awesome! Blogging and social media are terrific free market research tools to find out exactly what it is that readers do connect with about you. You've been given a gift already -- you know your readers love you. Now you need to drill it down: what have they said, what specifically do they like, etc. Also, what comes most naturally to you as a writer? Sometimes that can give you the strongest clues as to where your voice lies. 

    I generally write humor but it's the poignant pieces that often receive three to four times the amount of comments, emails, and DMs on Twitter. That alone encouraged me to move in a different direction of nonfiction and here I find myself in the middle stages of putting together my first non-humor essay collection. 

    You just have to trust in yourself and don't be afraid to ask readers and reviewers for their feedback. Readers love to interact with their favorite authors -- float a message out to your fans and see what comes back (in a newsletter or Facebook message -- whatever medium you use). Why not? 

  • Rachel Thompson

    Hi Avigail -- that's where you need to stop questioning. There is no 'they' that will tell you what the wrong thing is. To a certain extent, you do have to accept that will offend somebody, at some point, somewhere, sometime. Not everyone thinks, acts, or feels the way you do. Ask yourself this question: what's the worst that can happen? They don't buy my book? They leave a poor review? They say something mean? Oh well. Life goes on. 

    Here's what I tell myself when all that goes into play: I don't know those people. They haven't earned my respect. They have a right to their opinion, just as I have a right to express myself. God love em, if they want to spout off on me, fine (I've got the 1-star reviews on both my books to show it does and will happen). Does it stop or change my vision or path? Nope. Not at all. 

    Once you accept that, get the 'they' out of your head, blogging and writing will come easier. 

  • Hillary Waterman

    Thank you. I write fiction and non, and my readers seem to like my "voice" and find it authentic and relatable, but I have not been able to bring myself to blog because I worry I don't even have a voice, or that I don't know what it is yet.

  • Avigail Halberg

    I enjoyed this post.  Have found it very hard to own my own voice. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I offend someone?  Strangely have just created a blog for the first time yet am unsure what to say how to start. Honesty is a very powerful weapon I was once told by a barrister: never underestimate the power of honesty he added.  I agree.  Yet we live in a world of denial. A world of lies which we all in one way or another buy into. 

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thank you Heather. For me it was a neighbor. I've avoided it for awhile and because my "brand" is humor, it's a big step outside the box for me. But, as I said in the article, I've always been nonfiction and I've always shared serious and poignant views on relationships with my readers.

    During the writing of my first book, A Walk In The Snark, my ex-boyfriend committed suicide. The shock and grief made its way into my essays and I included a few in the book. It was a risk and some people love that I did that -- others hate it! Ah well, again, my book, my vision. (I tell them, in my own head 'Write your own damn book!') 

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thanks Pat for stopping by. There is great commentary from wonderful readers! I often feel the comments is where the action truly happens. I appreciate everyone's informative approach to sharing here. Thank you as well. 

  • Heather Marsten

    Thank you. I've been going into the zone because I needed to link the feelings to the actions, and it is a process.  Most helpful bit of advice from a writing teacher was for me to make sure to include senses. Curious to hear the songs you like. I found that writing about my young adult years I downloaded some of my favorite albums from that time onto my iPod, and that helped me get in the mood. Sorry to hear that you also faced abuse, way too much of it in this world. Thanks for friending me.

  • Pat Alvarez

    Great commentary and information...food for thought.  Thanks.

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thank you for sharing, Heather. Difficult stories are so hard to tell. My experience in writing the 'hard stuff' as I call it is to just write it. Go into that zone where you visualize it, recall it, even close your eyes as you write. That intense focus pushes out all that other white noise that's crowding your head. 

    I find music incredibly helpful in these moments. I know other writers who need complete silence but for me, it helps my focus. I'm writing a piece soon for @InClassicStyle regarding music and I'll be deconstructing which songs in particular I go back to again and again for different types of writing.

    For example, I also discuss abuse in my new work and Poe is my go-to girl for those moments (if that's helpful to you at all).

    You know your story. Let it speak. 

  • Rachel Thompson

    Yes, TOH Lee, it makes perfect sense. Honesty is extremely difficult, even as adults. I love and often quote Lorrie Moore who says to write as if your parents will never see it. That's incredibly hard for adult writers to do, particularly women. Why? We're adults, our parents are adults. Why is that soooo hard? 

    Because we don't want to be judged, hurt others, a myriad of other reasons, of course. But I truly believe at some point we have to let all that go and live each moment freely -- this is YOUR story. Clear your mind of the 'what will they think or say?' questions and just write. 

    Thank you so much for you comment. 

  • Heather Marsten

    Thank you so much for this. Voice is important. I'm finding mine in my memoir. And you are right, honesty is important. I keep second guessing my voice for what I'm writing about is dark for many people, first person account of incest and other abuse. In my story my parents swear and I describe two incest incidents from a child's POV using terms like thing and gunk.  What I've been struggling with is that makes my book fall between genres - Christians may not like the swearing and scenes of incest, but mainstream publishers are probably not going to like the Christian part at the end, but will like the occult phase in the middle. As I refine my rough draft, I've told myself to stay true to my voice and the story, to worry about agents and venue later. Right now telling the truth and sharing a healing journey is most important.  Your post was especially helpful. Thanks.

  • Lifan Writing

    Nice post and well said indeed. Writing has to come from the heart and honesty is the best policy though self possession may not come easy.Does that make sense? http://lifang-leehong.blogspot.com/

  • Rachel Thompson

    I do know what you mean, Gili. My experience, if this helps you, that weight you speak of, seems to come from two sources: 1) uncertainty of what your 'brand' is -- what are your keywords that describe who you are, what you write about, what will people expect consistently when they come to your blog? and 2) as I discuss in the article, identifying your topics/keywords familiarizes you with your 'comfort zone' -- however, don't mistake that for being comfortable!

    I don't think writing is comfortable -- some of more difficult pieces in my new work are anything but easy to write, but I know they fit my 'brand' of relationships/men and women/love and loss. Does that make sense? 

    Thanks for your comments! 

  • Gili Malinsky

    This is so great! Thanks so much for the honesty in this post. I've been coming across difficulty in writing my blog and I find it's for exactly the reason you mentioned - I'm not being myself. I'm being somebody else. I'm also drowning under the weight of my own pressure, do you know what I mean? Anyway, thanks so much for the advice and please keep writing!

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thanks so much, Cindy -- you so rock! This is such an important concept for so many writers. Especially female writers. Many times we don't trust in our own voice. I recently left a crit group after about a year when I knew in my heart I needed to go this new direction, and the leader of the group kept pushing me toward humor. Yes, I'm a humorist but that's not ALL I do. Trust in ourselves and our own vision is critical for success. 

  • Cindy Brown

    You and I, girl - sympatico. I own it and I'm proud to carrry "it" around (my honest humor)! Great post. I will promote you on both of my Facebook pages!

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thanks so much, BK. I see this so often with writers -- questioning our voice. It's something I've had to work with on myself as well -- trusting our own vision. So many others have opinions about what we should say! Get that stuff out of your head. Not that I don't believe in working with a crit group of course, or listening to an editor or mentor who knows you well -- but ultimately this is your work with your name. Own it.

  • BK Walker

    Great post Rachel. Everything you said is so true, and we do have to be honest and write what we care about and that will lead others to care. Great job lady :).