My mom is a registered dietitian. She teaches college and graduate courses in nutrition and dietetics, gives talks and presents to groups in our area and has practiced in the profession for a very long time.
I tell you this because, when we were little, my brother and I used to make fun of her for having a “dietitian voice.”
Even when she wasn’t up in front of a group of people talking about cholesterol or whatever, as soon as she started talking about anything nutrition-related in casual conversation, her voice would change. She spoke differently. In her professional mindset, she did not use words quite the same way she would if we were sitting at the dinner table talking about a TV show.
Only when I started podcasting did I realize I have a professional voice, too. Everyone does, to a certain extent. Just this past weekend I participated in a panel discussion at a conference, and on our way home, my mom smiled and said, “You used your not-you voice.”
Transitioning into a way of speaking other than the conversational tone and mannerisms we use in normal everyday conversation helps us separate the casual from the professional. Especially when we’re speaking about something we know a lot about, or are enthusiastic about, we change our way of speaking subconsciously. It is authoritative. It makes people pay attention. We do it intentionally, but often without realize we’re doing it.
Is it easier for you to listen to a TED Talk given by a professional, seasoned speaker than it is for you to listen to a lecturer who would much rather be in a lab than in a classroom? That’s why.
There are a lot of blog posts out there about how to “find your writing voice.” We’ve even published one. I’ve always struggled with figuring out a way to explain the process that makes sense. It’s hard to explain a process that, honestly, comes pretty naturally over time. People want solid answers and concrete step-by-step how-tos on this stuff. They don’t want to hear that time and practice are the only way to get from here to there. But in this case, that’s just the way it is.
Over time, your writing voice grows and develops along with your writing skills. As you learn, you fall more into a pattern of sorts. A way of phrasing and presenting things. There are a few things you can do to reassure yourself that it’s happening.
How to solidify your writing voice
- Become an expert in something. Well, sort of. Write about a topic enough to build up your own credibility and confidence. Over time it will get easier to ease yourself into a writing flow state, which is when your voice sort of takes over and brings everything together in its own way.
- Explain things differently. When you’re talking to someone in a cafe, and you start to tell a story, it’s a mess. There are a lot of “likes” and “oh, and I forgot to mentions” and “So then what happened was’s.” That’s the way you talk, and that’s fine. You’re sort of scribbling out sketches on a piece of paper. When you’re writing, start with the same scribbles. But revise. Color in some adjectives. Make things more linear with fancier diction. Turn that rough sketch into a painting. Every artist has their own style. They develop it by spending time with it and practicing it. Do the same thing with your writing.
If you wanted a quick strategy for developing your voice, I’m sorry you weren’t able to find it here. Good writing requires patience. That’s why many aspiring writers never get past the “aspiring” stage. They don’t want to wait. But if you can hold out, if you can stand to give it time, you’ll be pleased to know that one day you will wake up, you will read something you wrote late last night that you barely remember writing, and you will realize it’s written in your own unique writing voice. And that’s a pretty amazing thing to see.