How to Find Your Blogging VoiceWhen I was a teenager, studying for my SATs, I learned that I needed to take the SAT II Writing exam in order to get into the college I wanted. Like most engineers I know, I was a terrible writer. I can’t remember what I scored on the exam but it was like 500 (out of 800), even after tutoring. Writing is probably the thing I spend the most time on these days and if you asked 18-year-old Jim, writing would probably be the last thing he expected me to be doing at this advanced age. 🙂
Even today, after thousands of blog posts on Bargaineering, I still wouldn’t claim to be a good writer… I think I’m… decent. At heart, I’m still an engineer and so I rely on a conversational style that leaks too many idioms and other grammatical errors. That said – I’m OK with that. Unlike writing before the internet age, writing today is about being able to communicate in a way that is understandable. Whether you use a dash or semicolon the right way is largely irrelevant.
Grammar, punctuation, and all that stuff is fine and good but the key to blogging is to find your voice.
Be yourself. Yes, I realize that the title of the post says “find your voice” yet my advice is simple – be yourself.
Why should you be yourself? Whatever you’re writing about isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Bargaineering was written for young professionals because I was a young professional. I was male, single, under 25, working full-time, college educated, and I could relate to people in similar life situations. I wasn’t a retiree, I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have credit card debt, and I didn’t live paycheck to paycheck. I know plenty of bloggers who have grown their readership by sharing stores of overcoming debt (which is fantastic! they’ve been able to help so many people pay off their debt – something I wasn’t able to do because I couldn’t relate with life experience). I know plenty of bloggers who have grown their readership by sharing stories of raising children or living paycheck to paycheck. Those readers couldn’t relate to my story and so they found a story they could relate to.
That said, I can only give you my perspective. You should approach blogging in the same way. Authenticity is what matters and people can tell. With so many potential readers out there, you can make a living telling your story and finding people who relate to you. Don’t bend yourself to what you think you should be because it won’t last. You won’t be able to continue on for months without making a dime. It’s crucial that you be yourself and let people connect with you, not with a version of yourself you think they’ll prefer.
Who will read your blog? No one knows. This is a blog about making money on the internet and through blogging. There are a million of those sites and there are probably only a dozen that do it really really well. Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income is one of those blogs and if you go to his site, you can learn a lot. He’s been doing it for years and has a lot of extremely useful information available. A lot more than you can learn here right now (but I’m going to catch up! :)). What Pat doesn’t have is my point of view, which I hope is what draws people here, but he does have his which is why I read his site.
Your point of view is what will draw people to your site so it’s important to maintain it.
Just keep writing. You don’t need to be a detective to find my earlier work, just go back far enough and you can see how poorly I wrote in 2005. I’m not embarrassed about it, that’s who I was as a writer in 2005 and I hardly considered myself one. I was fortunate in that my writing ability did not get in the way of the message. (the first post has this gem of a sentence – “Well known for their 2.60% savings account that you fund via ACH transfer and withdraw with the same.” ack)
The more you write, the better you become. The less self-conscious you’ll be about how well or how poorly you write. You’ll fall into your style. Then, as you are settled, try to find ways to improve your writing about taking away your voice. Perhaps you use a few words too often (I’ve used “that said” to start two paragraphs already… but I don’t care), or you use fifty dollar words when five dollars once are sufficient, or you simply misspell a lot of words. That’s OK, as long as the message is authentic and you are being you.
Ignore (most) criticism. This last bit is very important. When you write, you should be writing from the heart. You’re not writing a term paper or a dissertation or a treatise or a book, this is a blog post. The message is the important part, not the formatting or overuse of certain terms.
I was once told that I should hire an editor to edit my blog posts. She said my writing was bad. At first I was shocked, it’s like finding out you smelled bad and no one bothered to tell you until you were thirty. I realized my “poor” writing had built up a nice business that supported me full-time and I was being savaged by an editor whose salary wasn’t directly tied to the her performance. I had to kill for my food, she had it spooned into a bowl every day. I could’ve easily dismissed her criticism, I already convinced myself that it wasn’t worth thinking about (in those exact terms).
But you can learn from criticism. Search inside of what hurts to find the nugget of wisdom. Ask for specifics (sadly, the critic could offer none and neither could Microsoft Word) and if you think they apply, learn and be better. It’s not a tragedy to be bad at something. It’s a tragedy to continue being bad after you’ve been given proper advice to become better.
Enjoy it. That’s it – just enjoy being you, enjoy sharing your message, and stop if you ever hate it. Sometimes the world isn’t ready for you and doesn’t deserve you.
If this post comes off a little warm and fuzzy, that’s because it is warm and fuzzy. Finding your voice is about self-confidence and not being afraid to fall on your face. Embrace that emotion and use it to drive yourself forward. If you keep at it every day, one day you’ll look back at that kid who barely sniffed 500 on the SAT II Writing exam and show him what his writing has created.
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