How I’m Finding my Voice Again
Growing up, I had teachers, friends, strangers, and family members make comments like “you have something to say” or “I love your voice.” I didn’t think much of it, I just kept writing. From grammar school through college, I wrote musings about life, observations, hard lessons, and messages of hope. I penned short stories, heartfelt essays, and started novels I never finished. For me, writing was everything. It was a safe space to be myself and to uncover what was deep inside. It was where I could make sense of everything I was going through. And—as someone who suffers from the ebbs and flows of depression—it was a way to remind myself that there’s more to life than the dark spots.
But voice? I wasn’t thinking about it. And truthfully, I haven’t considered what it meant until this past year. However, in these last few months, it became glaringly obvious to me that I had lost a bit of that unique “voice” people always commented on.
I wanted it back.
Where I Lost My Voice
There are a lot of reasons why people lose a piece of themselves: life changes, maturing, finding one’s true self. When I tried to identify the reason for losing my voice, I realized it was work-related. Somehow, writing more often affected my actual writing.
Although I went to school for human resources and worked in recruiting and HR for a few years, I unexpectedly moved into a newish role called employer branding. Essentially, I act as the “marketing department” and showcase a company’s culture, teams, and jobs so people will want to work there. I had zero marketing background before I was thrust into these newly formed roles, but I embraced it and built them from the ground up at several companies.
Why did I embrace it? Because it meant I got to write. That was the reason I was tapped for the role to begin with. I worked at a smaller organization of about 200 people. My CEO saw what I wrote about human resources, recruiting, and industry news and felt like the company could leverage it. He offered me the opportunity to move into a new marketing role I could make my own.
That offer ultimately transformed my career trajectory. Since then, I’ve worked in three brand new roles that I built from nothing. I’ve owned it all, created it from scratch, and more-or-less called the shots. But what I didn’t realize is that working in this capacity would chip away at my voice.
How I Lost my Voice
I was ecstatic to write regularly. I told the story of our employees. I talked about the exciting changes in the organization. And I pitched all the reasons why someone may want to work at the company. The issue? It wasn’t me telling those stories. Not really, anyway.
If any of you work in marketing, you know that there’s a specific voice, tone, and personality established for companies. There are select phrases and words you use. Formats for your writing. It makes it so that all communications, copy, collateral, and so on are concise and streamlined. So, yes, I was the one writing for 40+ hours these past six years. Technically.
But it wasn’t me.
Over the years, I conditioned myself to write in a certain way. A little reserved. Polished. Matter-of-fact. And lacking any form of personality or opinion that can cause an onslaught of negative internet comments (you know how that is). It was all about telling a story without rocking the boat. This meant a lot of restriction. And unfortunately, that style of writing transferred over to my personal writing too.
How I’m Getting it Back
There were two distinct ways I started to get my voice back this last year.
My manuscripts: writing Saving the Winchester Inn turned things around for me. I went back to the age-old advice of “write what you know.” My voice has always been the strongest when I wrote something personal. So, I used my own life experience in this story. For example, Lia (one of the main characters) struggles with her fast-paced work-life in Boston while trying to set things straight in her hometown in the Carolinas.
I literally wrote this book during the months of insane work travel…for my employer who is based in Boston. And, if you didn’t already know, I live in South Carolina. The planes, taxi rides, events, and extremely work-driven culture of Boston contrasted with the easy way of life in Charleston. Going back and forth was jarring and a little confusing, just like it was for Lia. I put those experiences in my story, and it worked. I received positive feedback from publishers and agents about Lia’s voice.
This blog: starting this blog opened my eyes. I remember when I wrote my first post in February, and a feeling of relief washed over me. It felt right. Although I still had that lingering restraint from my years of corporate writing, some of it started to fall away. That sense of freedom and self came back like muscle memory.
I know I still have a lot of work to do to break away from the “corporate” type of writing and get comfortable writing in my own voice again, but I believe this blog is helping me do that. It’s a different format than writing my stories and works as quick practice for me to raise my voice again.
A lot of writers advise other people not to waste time writing blogs. They feel it’s a time suck from writing your manuscript, especially since it’s hard to build readership. Maybe that’s true. I might only be writing for a handful of people or even just myself. But that’s not the point. The point is that starting this blog has helped me find a piece of me I lost: my voice.
Being that an author’s voice is one of the most important things they can have, I’d say it’s well worth the effort.
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