One Tool that Really Sharpens Your Writer’s – or Blogger’s – Voice

I knew my excessive journaling of 20+ years would pay off some day – big time.

A voice.

Thanks to hiding in my room for hours and scribbling away, I now have a voice. A writer’s voice – a blogger’s voice.

All aspiring writers search for it. All authors define it, explain it, and scare the hell out of those who have yet to discover it.

Over and over again. And we never get tired of talking about it, it is our holy grail.

You have a Voice

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good idea must be in want of a voice.

Voice is a subject that authors never get tired of writing about, and aspiring writers never reading about.

I’ll have a shot at defining my own voice if I may.

Colloquial, conversational, concise, straightforward, quirky, inspiring (hopefully).
It can take different personas depending upon the mood I am in. It can get funny, disarming, energetic, loud, and hysterical. These are just shades of my voice – not every piece has to be funny, or serious, or earth shattering. Often when a writer writes with the same persona all the time, they get very monotonous.

If you want to have a shot at being good at writing – being memorable, you must have a distinctive style of writing. You must have a voice.

Journaling can assist you in this regard – it’s really the perfect tool.

Why You Should Consider Journaling

If you think that everybody is journaling, then you are in for a surprise.

I recently asked few girlfriends if they journal and got a look from most of them – a look that says: do-you-know-me-at-all? A look that says: if I had to write in my journal on top the 951 chores that keep me delightfully occupied during the day, I would fall unconscious.

People worry that they have nothing exciting to write about. What if it is so boring that I put myself to sleep writing that? One friend asked me.

They complain that don’t have the time, don’t have the privacy, don’t have the discipline. I get it, journaling is not hugely popular.

People believe journaling is a bit like going on an exercise regime where they have to adhere to a schedule, and spent time doing something extra. All the while they’d just be as happy gobbling down some chocolate.

Watching TV is chocolate – Journaling is exercise.

Journaling Develops Your Blogging Voice

It is a shame though; journaling gets you in the habit of writing regularly. It strengthens your voice. It helps reduce your fear of a blank sheet.

It is not a coincidence that people who journal extensively have often already developed a voice that is naturally suited to blogging. It starts to feel natural to write in first person.

Think for a minute:

  • Have you been writing in your journal, dairy or a notebook for a while?
  •  Are you comfortable writing in the first person?
  •  Do you write because you had to write something that was on your mind and refused to go away until you get it off your chest and on the paper?
  •  Do you write like nobody’s watching?

If so, you will find it blogging to be quite an easy and even a pleasurable activity.

What journaling doesn’t do is to go beyond that stage and gather courage to show your material to the world.

Journaling is Your First Draft

There is a distinct difference between blogging and journaling – the craft of writing. You don’t require any when writing in your journal. And that probably the only set of eyes to ever land on your writing is only going to be yours.

This is your first draft. You have a voice. It might be something that is so bad that even a preschooler can do a better job, but still it is yours. You have created it.

You can gush, fume or whine – anything goes. You can scream, be self righteous or downright offensive. Nobody is going to read it, nobody is going to know. You can vent all you want. It’s all fair game.

From their onwards, it needs to be shaped, polished, revised, edited. So it doesn’t look like you have been writing under the influence. And first drafts are meant to be worked on again, and again, till they are ready to be seen by another human.

Journaling Means You Never Run Out of Ideas

It could be that you wanted to talk about a certain incident that happened in your life, you want to talk about an experience that left you feeling excited, shocked, mortified.

Something that got stuck in your mind and refused to let go. A great injustice perhaps? Something worth telling the world.

You felt compelled to share certain lesson you recently learnt. An aha moment that had you smacking your head – why didn’t I think of that before.

All of these ideas seem very bloggish.

Combined with your journaling habit, your head will be buzzing with ideas and your computer will beckon you at odd hours.

Go on, Write for 10 Minutes

Write on any topic – write as if nobody is watching. Write for yourself – 10 minutes of free writing.

10 minutes is very doable. You sit and start writing; there is no time to think, no time to waste. Leave the editing, for now you are only writing. Trust yourself to write honestly in your journals. Keep going.

Each person, each life is distinctive. Even if you didn’t grow up in a family of circus ropewalkers or did not spent time hitchhiking across the world, you are still interesting.

It’s not what happens in our lives that make us writers, it is what we make of it that does. It is our distinctive point of view. Allow this to emerge through journaling and you will have a new respect for your dairies.

Do you have a distinct style of writing? Could you describe your voice? How did you hone it? How long did it take you? Are you a fan of journaling or would you not touch it with a ten foot pole? Do share your thoughts in the comments below, I respond to each and every one of them. 🙂

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  1. Andrew Groat Says :
    Posted on October 12, 2011 at 1:25 am

    “Watching TV is chocolate – Journaling is exercise.”

    Very well said Marya! I love it!

    I find that writing a journal also helps you drain all of the junk from your brain and leaves you feeling much more clear and focused. Often I will write 2 pages of whatever is in my brain at the moment. Comes out as complete rubbish, but then I can begin writing clearly after the rubbish has been removed.

    • marya
      Posted on October 12, 2011 at 2:27 am

      Oh I might have read it somewhere – I go through so much reading material – so I probably can’t take all the credit. 😉

      And I totally agree with what you say. I actually have many separate journals now, one is for venting, stuff that should be written about. After putting that on paper, I feel so much better.

      I also have one for inspirational purposes, for when I am feeling low. Then there are few others for free writing and not taking etc. I consider all to be a part of my writing practice. Have you been keeping one for long Andrew?

      • Andrew Groat Says :
        Posted on October 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

        It’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last 2 or 3 years. I read a great old book called “Thinking on paper” – that really put it in perspective for me – writing is an extension of the mind.

        • marya
          Posted on October 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm

          Sounds really interesting. I am going to go check it right now.

          Writing is an extension of the mind … and
          Happiness is a state of mind

          Writing Happiness – ??? If you could see me right now, I am beaming from ear to ear – what a beautiful way of putting my brand in perspective.
          Thank you! 🙂

  2. Rashmi Says :
    Posted on October 12, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Although, it’s been very few posts that I actually converted my journal into blog post, but still I believe it makes a point. I have been into the habit of journaling since my school days, it’s been around 10-12 years now, it is always refreshing and above all, polishing your ideas, your viewpoints. Hence when you get clear about how you feel, how you perceive things, you get a better idea of composing a post for your blog in your own voice.

    But thanks Marya for highlighting this fact here-it gives the readers like me more confidence!!!

    • marya
      Posted on October 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Rashmi, I wasn’t suggesting that what we should journal with the aim to convert the material to a blog post, at least I don’t think I did. 🙂 Primarily, I think it helps to develop our authentic voice because we write only for ourselevs and you of course know this. Glad to know you agree. Thanks 🙂

  3. Bwendo | Sober Blogger Says :
    Posted on October 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    This is such an inspiration for me!
    I have been sober now for six months and your site is the first that actively encourages journalling and blogging as a means to release inner thoughts.
    Thanks, will be coming back…

    • marya
      Posted on October 12, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      Hi Bwendo. Yes, do journal by means to write about your inner most thoughts, and when you have dealt with the emotions, revisit your writing calmly, edit and then post it for the world to see. The whole process is very cathartic. Thanks for your comments, let me know if I can help in any way. Marya

  4. Mehmudah Says :
    Posted on October 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I wrote diary growing up whenever I had a bad day, so i agree with all of what you’ve said. Where were you by the way? Missed your posts!

    • marya
      Posted on October 12, 2011 at 11:25 pm

      Hey, another thing in common, I always journal when I’m having a bad day too, never on a good day – I am too busy having a good time then. I have got boxes full of diaries that go way back. I can never reread them though, too painful. Do you?

      But again, the point was we don’t need to journal so that we get material for blog posts. Journaling just helps to develop a voice – which you have – and an pretty awesome one at that. Hey, I am going to email you, since you are not on twitter. Same reservations still? 🙂

      • Mehmudah Says :
        Posted on October 13, 2011 at 3:32 am

        Yeah, so true. I never want to reread them. Embarrassing, and yes, painful. And having a bad day means you need to get the pent up emotions out. Somewhere down the line, my entries changed from Dear Diary to Dear Allah, and I can’t tell you how much better it felt. (Don’t mean to sound holy or anything, just felt like He understood, know what I mean?)

        Sure, please do go ahead and email! Yeah, same reservations abt Twitter, it sounds nice but maybe it’s not for me…TC!

        • marya
          Posted on October 14, 2011 at 5:39 am

          I know exactly what you mean Mehmudah. And I agree 100%. It’s all about the faith, isn’t it?
          Take care.

  5. Brigid | The Inspired Notebook Says :
    Posted on October 13, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Hi Marya!

    One of the very first blog posts I wrote was about my experience with writing ‘Morning Pages’. I started doing them almost 4 years ago now – as a result of reading about them in “The Artist’s Way” – and it’s a habit that I’ve continued almost every day since then!

    I absolutely agree with you that journalling is a great way for a blogger to find their voice. Or for a journaller to ‘find’ their blog!!

    I don’t think I’d ever have considered creating a blog if I hadn’t been writing regularly and already to some degree ‘sharing’ my thoughts. The writing has helped me clarify who I am and what I value, and what those things are that I have to share.

    Now that I have a ‘voice’, I just need to work at using it more regularly!!

    • marya
      Posted on October 13, 2011 at 1:15 am

      Hi Brigid. I agree with you here, I think all writers keep journals at some point or another. I mean, boxes are literally overflowing with my old, dusty diaries at my house. I started keep a journal when I was barely in school. And yet, nowadays, especially in this technology filled time (and that’s a whole new discussion), I find that very few people are journaling. If you suggest this to people, they give you the weirdest look – as in who has time for that? It’s such a shame really, because that’s writing practice really.
      Also, it’s sad to see so many bloggers (who many not be writers or are new at this) dismiss the idea because they think blogging alone is sufficient. But I am glad you and I know otherwise. 🙂
      Many thanks for dropping by.

  6. Eddie Gear Says :
    Posted on October 13, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Marya, Sitting and writing is something very difficult. The only time I ever write is on my blog or while writing comments. I believe that I am not very good at that as well. May be I will give this a try. But do you think its going to improve my writing on professional level.

    • marya
      Posted on October 14, 2011 at 5:38 am

      Eddie, have you heard of Butt-in-chair? That’s the most important thing a writer needs. Literally, the ability to sit yourself down in your chair. You can’t up for anything for a set period of time. And you do nothing else but write. Try free writing for 10 minutes at a time. You might surprise yourself at how you write. 🙂

      Also, I had a peak at your blog and your writing is fine. However, if you want to develop your writing voice even more, writing regularly would certainly help. It doesn’t have to be journaling. You can write anywhere, anytime. Hope this helps. 🙂

  7. Ana @ Bounce Rate Says :
    Posted on October 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Great tips, thanks Marya. I will try it, most definitely.

    • marya
      Posted on October 16, 2011 at 1:27 am

      Thanks Ana for your kind words. You never seem to amaze me (as in not only take time out to drop by and but leave a comment as well). Many thanks. 🙂

  8. Judy Dunn Says :
    Posted on October 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Hey Marya,

    Such an important topic here. Voice has been talked about so much and described as the “holy grail” of blogging. And yet it is often misunderstood. For me, part of the problem, was the idea that I must “find” it, as if it were a slipper sock that fell under the couch cushion. Voice is there, always there. Sometimes we just don’t recognize it.

    I have been keeping journals for 15+ years and all those years—notebook upon notebook of my morning pages ramblings—have definitely paid off.

    I think that one thing journaling does is keep us honest. And honest writing is the best kind. I have been amazed at the things that have poured out of me during free writing. And when we bare our souls, I think we are able to connect emotionally with our readers.Even though readers don’t see our journals, it sets the standard for the kind of writing they do see.

    I wholly support, and recommend, free writing—daily.Thanks for reminding me how important voice is. It is the one thing that distinguished us from all the other writers out there

    • marya
      Posted on October 24, 2011 at 7:38 am

      Hi Judy, first of all, my apologies for responding so late. Gosh, I didn’t realize that it’s been almost a week and I haven’t gotten back to any of my readers.

      I dig the idea of voice being always there and that one needs to discover it through journaling and free writing etc. I always get so excited to hear from people who have been journaling for a long, long time, makes me feel like I am not abnormal after all. Most don’t.

      Thanks so much for posting such thoughtful comments – I always love having you over. Cheers 🙂

  9. Susan May Says :
    Posted on October 21, 2011 at 2:56 am

    Voice like personality cannot be faked I feel. I think its like people who pretend to be something they are not, who talk on subjects of which are ignorant. And we all think, ‘Oh this person is so fake.’

    With a writing voice you need to be you. If you have a quirky, fun way of talking, write like that, if you are serious and contemplative, write like that.

    The best way to find your voice, I believe, is to notice when you find yourself passionately talking about something dear to your heart.

    Since beginning my blog, I have realised the next post idea comes to me, when I am passionately discussing something I have discovered about my writing. As I am bending my darling husband’s ear, the other night, I started thinking, this is a subject I want to explore. There and then, I decided today’s post.

    So, when you come to write your post, because of your enthusiasm for the topic, you will find your voice naturally shines through. And it will end up being all you and natural.

    • marya
      Posted on October 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Hey Susan, many thanks for your words. I was really tied up (more than usual) in the past few days and couldn’t come to the comments sooner. (Have you seen my problogger event post?)

      I agree with everything you have said, especially your tip about having a passionate conversation about an idea and also write that down while you are still excited about it. Believe me, this was the reason why I started this blog. People were suggesting – hey you should totally write about this. And here I am.

      Many thanks for your tweets though – much appreciated. 🙂

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  11. Cosmo
    Posted on November 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Greetings, Marya! Can you please direct me to a post in which you discuss what you blogged about *before* becoming a blogging couch — and how you made the transition? Cheers!

    • Cosmo
      Posted on November 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      I mean blogging — haha

      • Cosmo
        Posted on November 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        Coach! Coach! Coach! 🙂

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