A few months ago, I was at a talk Seth Godin gave in Seattle, and he said something that continues to resonate with me.
It’s not hard for me to blog everyday, because I write like I talk.
Seth’s quote is a great tactic for writers. Often, we paralyze ourselves into not writing because we feel self-conscious about our voice. We think, “This sounds terrible. No one’s going to want to read this,” or “Who cares what I have to say?”
This self-doubt comes from a lack of confidence and from not having fully realized your unique writing voice. Luckily, the way to overcome it is simple: remind yourself that people listen to and are interested in what you have to say every day when you speak. If your writing voice mirrors your actual voice, there’s no reason to think people won’t also want to read what you have to say.
It’s tempting to constantly be pushing the edge in the world of writing. However, what I’ve found is that when it comes to blogging, it’s easier for me to get a post out every day if I don’t. Instead, I relax around the words. I don’t try to be perfect.
I agree completely. The pursuit of perfection often prevents us from ever writing at all. As writers, our minds create enormous pressure to “push the edge.” To write masterpieces. To create Art with a capital A. We build up the craft in our heads to such an absurd level that it becomes impossible to actually start typing.
We compare ourselves to the masters: “Stephen King is a writer; He writes 2000 words a day. 2000 bestselling words. I could never do that. I’m just little old me.” This thought process causes writing to become an exotic art inaccessible to mere mortals.
But such an attitude is self-defeating, and, thankfully, writing doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time. Moby Dick is ridiculous. It’s unlikely your blog post will be able to compete with a work like that, so don’t even worry about it! You’ll be better off if you eliminate all the pressure, which you’ve likely created out of thin air. Write well, of course, but don’t force the tormented artist motif.
Like Everett says, it’s better to relax and let the words come naturally, rather than psyching yourself out all the time. Don’t try to use unnatural fancy language, or be overly witty, or sound like someone other than you. Just pretend you’re talking to a friend over dinner, or that you’re sending them an email. Then, with practice, your writing will start to sound like you.
Writing teachers everywhere tell students to read their final draft aloud before submitting it, which allows them to hear and fix every awkward sentence. An awkward sentence sounds unnatural. When you speak, you sound natural, so write like you talk. Unless you talk with bad grammar, in which case, send me an email.
Remember, no one is as good as you when it comes to your writing voice. Stephen King can write a lot of stuff, but he can’t write like you. He’s an expert at sounding like Stephen King, and you’re an expert at sounding like you.
Finally, keep in mind this quote by Thomas Mann:
A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
See? Very comforting. So, relax, and just write.