Skip to content

Write Like You Talk

Yesterday a friend asked me what I thought about writing personal vs. objective blog posts. Should you try to strike a balance between connecting with your audience and sharing your story?

It’s a question that lurks in the back of every blogger’s mind (probably) when we’re hunched over a coffee-shop table pounding the keys and procrastinating on Twitter.

is this too much my voice? is this not enough my voice? what is my voice anyways? is the whole “voice” concept so last year?

what about “story”? is that so last year too? 

should I edit that line? what about that one? this is too self-indulgent. now it’s too stilted.

i don’t know how to write. i don’t even know how to spell.

I don’t know the answer to all those questions, but I know this:

Your words matter. Trust your voice. 

Anybody can write an article. Hell, everybody has. The internet doesn’t need more objective information. It already has all the information we could possibly want.

What we need is human-to-human connection, brave truth, uncensored words, and a voice that nobody else can imitate.

At the Faith & Culture Conference in this month, Karri Patterson confessed that she had tried on different voices in the process of being a blogger: first Anne Voskamp’s flowery prose, then Jen Hatmaker’s inimitable snark. I laughed when I heard that, because I have the same confession: when I first sat down to write, I wanted to be the next Donald Miller (didn’t we all?). Then I wanted to be Rachel Held Evans. I even went through a stretch where I wanted to write like Preston, which was just one hundred percent not me.

Kari said that trying out other voices is part of the process of being a writer, but that in the end we need to write like ourselves. I’m still learning this, but I think she’s onto something.

I’ve written a lot of stuff here. Some of it is long, carefully crafted, researched and footnoted and linked and edited to perfection. Other stuff is barely-coherent explosions of half-baked sentences strewn all across the screen.

You know what I’ve noticed? The stuff that sounds like ME is usually the stuff that connects with YOU. 

Because we’re humans. Because it’s real. My best writing isn’t the stuff I write when I’m writing like a writer. It’s the stuff that comes out when I just write how I talk. When I’m normal and regular.

As Michelle Cowden said, “Maybe whatever you have to say has already been said…. BUT NOT BY YOU!”

Story time: I wrote a pile of words a few weeks back about how Christianity has some issues (not exactly breaking news, I know ). At the end, I wrote a pretty cheeky line that made me grin like a little kid, but it was also a little bit rude. I sent the piece off to one of of my writer-friends and said: “Should I delete that last line, so that this gets more shares on Facebook?” She wrote back: “Fuck that shit. The last line is brill.” I rolled with it, and the resulting blog post wound up getting passed around Facebook over three thousand times.

Anytime you start to do something “so that it gets more shares on Facebook”, don’t.

Facebook doesn’t need more slick, edited stuff. Trust your voice. Even when your voice is cheeky and also a little bit rude.

Confession time: Every time I send out a new blog post to my email subscribers, I worry that you won’t like it. That you won’t like me. That you’ll be mad at me for inconveniencing you. DO YOU KNOW HOW RIDICULOUS THAT IS? I mean, it’s not like I’m printing out my blog and shoving it under your windshield wipers while you’re at the grocery story buying chips and salsa. You signed up to get this shit in your inbox. You clicked over here to read it. And I’m afraid that I’m inconveniencing you!?!? Writers have some weird voices in their heads, yo.

If you’re tempted to listen to those voices in your head, don’t. You’re not inconveniencing anybody.

Some people will like you. Some people won’t. Your writing won’t change that, one way or another. Write on. 

I read a thing by a guy named Mars Dorian the other day, about how blogging is dead (long live blogging!). He says that “style matters more than substance, because algorithm and wikipedia can give you all the information you need, but they have zero emotional pulling power. Humans always crave emotion. A wikipedia page gives you info, but I can make you feel something.

He’s onto something too.

Despite the diminishing returns, the decline in popularity, and the endless parade of “is blogging dead?” think pieces, we’re still in this game. I’m still writing this, and you’re still reading it. Why? Because we are humans, and this is how we connect.

Blogging is only dead if you write boring shit.

Or maybe not. Maybe the art form is on its last leg, and it’s all downhill from here. Either way, there’s only one thing to do:

If you’re writing on the internet, now is the time to get ridiculous. Put some sick beats in your earholes, tear the backspace button off your laptop, and get to work. 

Write like you talk. You’re the only one who can.

(and I can’t wait to read it.)

[image: ona Anglada Pujol ]


If you want more of this, join the Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop and I’ll teach you everything I know about blogging!

published April 24, 2015

subscribe to updates:

(it's pretty much the only way to stay in touch with me these days)