To set yourself apart as a writer, and to inevitably help you become successful at your craft, you need to create a unique writing style. What exactly is a writing style? And how does one develop his or her own? These are questions I hear from young creatives or those just beginning their writing careers all the time. Developing a unique writing style isn’t as difficult as you may think and that’s because a) our way of speaking and communicating is inherent within us, and b) because in everything we read, absorb, and even emulate, we’re finding our voices.
‘Voice’ is a writing term that identifies a writer’s creativity and personal use of language, sentences structure, flow, etc. One can have a poetic voice, lyrical voice, conversational voice, professional voice, or even stream of consciousness voice, just to name a few.
However, this voice comes naturally to each and every one of us; the challenge, as writers, is to find and build it.
Finding your voice and writing style and developing these things is what creates your identity as a writer, and thus a brand for your work. Though it may seem like a challenge at first, your voice and writing style are a part of you. The more you work to both develop your skills and practice the craft, the stronger your writing will be. Here are six ways to help you do exactly that.
Think about the aspects of your personality that set you apart.
Finding your voice should be a natural process. If you feel like you’re searching for an identity, or trying to desperately to sound like someone/something else, you’re not aligned with who you are.
Instead of working for, or stressing about your voice, first think about what sets you apart. Create a list of attributes, strengths, personality traits, or things you love. Are there certain brands you connect with? Certain ‘labels,’ stereotypes, or identities you embody? For example, are you a single mother? A millennial? Someone who is musically aligned? Can you relate to writing or work from that category of people? Is there something that feels natural about reading work on those topics that comes naturally out in your own writing?
When you think about what you identify with, or feel strongly about, it can help you to see certain aspects of your personality and personal brand that can lend to a unique writing style.
Journal or write in a diary to see your natural flow.
One of the ways I found and developed my voice is through writing in a journal. Not only was this a non-thinking, stream of consciousness practice, but it helped me destress and figure out what made me me.
We are our most authentic selves when writing content we know others won’t read. That’s why this journaling practice is so beneficial. When we know others aren’t going to see what we write, we’re more honest, open, and vulnerable. We don’t hold back.
Try this as a practice to get back to your normal self, and take note of the way in which you write. Are your sentences long? Choppy? Do you tell stories or get to the point? Are you more inclined to write poetry, or factual reporter-like notes? As you study your own work, you can start to see patterns and natural tendencies that will identify your unique writing style and voice.
Practice different writing styles based on authors you enjoy.
Imitation is the biggest form of flattery. Have you heard that quote before? People have said it to me when my writing was plagiarized, which, despite their best intentions, only made me more frustrated. The premise behind the quote is true, though. We want to emulate the people we admire, and as your figuring out your own voice, this can be a valuable tool.
First, let me be abundantly clear that when I say emulate, I mean EMULATE. Not plagiarize. Emulate is to embody the style or type of writing. For example, you might try to write in first person and long, drawn out sentences like an author you love. Or you might attempt short poems like Rupi Kaur in her book, “The Sun And Her Flowers.”
In emulating, you are embodying IDEAS. Not taking content, thoughts, or even layout. You must always be very careful in this process; in fact, I would encourage you to do these emulating techniques in a journal that won’t be published on the internet or elsewhere. That way you can avoid accidental plagiarism, which can be detrimental to your career.
Bottom line, here: Try out different techniques and styles from authors you love, but be very careful in the process. This is a tool for developing YOU. Not a means of copying others to create a voice that sounds just like someone else.
Write in the first, second, and third person.
A great challenge, especially as you begin to develop your unique voice, is to work on writing in different persons: first, second, and third. This was valuable to me because when I challenged myself to stop writing blogs in the first person, I learned that second person “you” type of essays really resonated with my audience. For example, “Read This If You Are Fiercely Independent But Also Ridiculously Emotional” This essay was a combination of first and second and really helped me to relate my experience to others, and thus find my strong, uplifting, lyrical-conversational voice.
Dabble with a writing style you’re unfamiliar with.
Just as it’s important to dabble with different persons, it’s equally as important to write in different genres—especially ones that don’t come naturally to you. Before I started writing poetry, I wrote first person blogs. It wasn’t until I challenged myself to draft and share poetry on Word & Sole that I learned my inherent voice was more lyrical and poetic!
When you push yourself to write differently, you’ll be surmised at what you discover about how you think, speak, and articulate your thoughts.
Listen to yourself + write what feels natural.
Above all (and yes, I’ve said this already but I want to say it again because it’s important!) is that you have to listen to yourself. Sometimes we get all wrapped up in trying to sound a certain way or relate to an audience—this sort of thing will only pressure you and push you to become something you’re not.
Instead of trying to adapt your style, focus on what feels right. Write what feels natural and get it all out. Remember, you can always go back and edit or redraft later.
Featured Image Credit: Allison Davis