That little nugget of advice includes one of the most popular buzz words on the Interwebz at the moment.
So what does ‘being authentic’ mean?
How do you do it?
Why is it so important?
Let’s take a closer look.
What Does the Dictionary Say?
Authentic : Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.
In other words, be true to yourself. It’s always better to be a great version of yourself than a poor copy of someone else.
Are You Making Yourself Heard?
Have you ever noticed that some people who advise you to find your own, unique voice, often don’t have one of their own? Oh, the irony.
However, “find your own voice” is good, solid advice and it’s a big part of being authentic.
The Interwebz is a noisy place and you need to make yourself heard. There’s an endless, deafening waterfall of content crashing over your head.
If you have one of those little whistles in your life jacket, it’s time to blow it now.
“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together, and blow.”
Who’s Authentic Anyway?
To Have and Have Not was Lauren Bacall’s first film. She was nineteen. She was beautiful, poised and glamorous but it was her unique voice that made her stand out from the other ingénue actresses of the time. It also caught Humphrey Bogart’s attention. The rest is history.
If you’ve never heard of these people,
a) thanks for making me feel old
b) just Google them. You’ll be glad you did. Pinky swear.
So, where were we? Ah, yes. Authenticity.
Where to Begin?
A few maniacally driven, high achievers come out of the womb clutching a Mission Statement. For the rest of us poor C-Listers left choking in their dust, everything happens much more slowly.
Once you’ve decided that you want to have a blog or website, there is a lot to do. You have to make endless to-do lists. And don’t bother to try and prioritise the things you’ve listed because they’re all important, right?
At this stage, everything on that ever growing list is something tangible. It requires action. And you make it happen, one item at a time.
But I’ll wager next week’s take-out coffee budget that there is one thing missing from your list. It wasn’t on mine and I’m the world’s most compulsive list maker.
I left off authenticity.
Authenticity for Hire
Many of us writers and bloggers start our professional careers by writing for clients. This means that we have to style our writing to match the article or piece that we are creating.
Business articles need a businesslike tone. Medical Academic articles need a certain structure. General articles may be lighter but still require a quietly confident, informative style. You get the gist.
The good news is that we become adept at changing styles.
The bad news is that our own personal writing style and the true essence of who you are, eventually becomes buried and almost forgotten.
Writing as Yourself…What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
You may be highly experienced in writing for clients and have many years of successful writing under your belt. You’re probably looking forward to finally writing by yourself and for yourself. It feels great to have that heady feeling of freedom, doesn’t it?
Yes – initially.
That freedom very quickly turns to frustration when you can’t seem to find the words. But hey, you’re a professional, so you grit your teeth and push yourself forward.
You can do this. It’s just going to take a little time…
Eventually, you have something – but when you read it through…you get that horrible sinking feeling.
You would never submit such dire writing to a client and you can’t use it on your own website or blog.
The Temptation of the Comfort Zone
This is one major reason why many talented and able writers remain stuck in Content Mills. They would rather stay there – where they know what to expect, they know how to write what’s required and they know they will get paid. Even when the pay is low.
Different Voices = Earning Money
You’re a writer. So why is it so hard to write for yourself. It should be easy – shouldn’t it?
When you write for clients all the time, your brain starts to associate those different styles of writing with earning money.
That’s a good thing. It keeps you sounding professional and helps you to keep going and to keep earning that money. The required style is implicit in whatever you are creating. And you know that you will be paid for it.
Your Own Voice = Taking a Risk
Now that you’re trying to write for yourself – there is no expected style – yet.
And you won’t make much money from it – yet.
Your brain neatly turns all of this negative information into the mother of all panics.
It tells you that
a) you can’t write
b) you won’t earn any money
c) the logical action is to stop
But you ignored that horrible fear and your brain’s unsolicited advice and kept going, remember?
Who Am I Kidding?
So, let’s go back and assess what you wrote. You can stop breathing into that paper bag now. We’re making progress.
You have enough experience to know that what you’ve written is wooden, stilted and just plain awful.
If you read our Blog Post on confidence, you’ll know that it’s something that we creative types can lack.
And right now, your confidence has left the building.
There is a lot of help on the Interwebz for ‘how to find your own voice.’
Hmmm. I would argue that you’ve always had your own voice. You’ve just been using your voice in different ways for different clients.
If you write like that for long enough, you become very versatile but your own voice gets pushed to the back of the queue.
Voice…Where Are You?
Let me reassure you that you will rediscover your voice. It isn’t as buried as you think it is because you use it every day.
The simple answer is to write how you talk.
How you talk to friends, how you chat with friends on the phone or on Facebook or when you’re hanging out together. Is it difficult to talk then? I’ll bet you have some of your best fun when you’re relaxing with friends. Think of how you effortlessly banter back and forth, how you can make them laugh with great one-liners, how you feel a deep connection when you talk to them about what really matters to you. You’re using your authentic voice – not just your larynx – but words from your heart.
That’s the zone you’re aiming for.
Is It Really That Easy?
Yes and no.
Be prepared to keep writing your own material until you know you’re in your own zone.
You will know when it happens because your words will start to flow effortlessly, you will relax and feel a surge of confidence.
Tone up Your Writing Muscle
The more you write ‘as yourself’ the easier it will become. Eventually, your own voice will become part of your portfolio of styles.
Business, Medical, General…you.
Why You Need to Use Your Own Voice
Is it really that important? In a word – yes.
The greatest authors are loved for their own authentic voice.
Stephen King is a great example. Just one page in to one of his books and you feel comfortable – it’s like greeting a dear friend who you haven’t seen for ages. And you relax, knowing that you’re in good hands and in for a great read.
Danielle Steel is another. Oooh, I see a few frowns. Frown all you like. Danielle has written ninety seven novels and seventeen childrens books – and her net worth is estimated to be around $655,188, 420 so she must be doing something right.
Reading one of her books is like getting into your favourite pyjamas and eating chocolate. You could, of course, combine all three for total nirvana.
Both of these writers have a unique, authentic voice and that creates a familiarity that we readers adore. We start to trust that author for always delivering what we’re expecting.
Readers are fiercely loyal to writers that they love.
We all have our favourites. Isn’t it exciting when your favourite brings out a new book? You bet.
This extends to the blogging world too.
It’s very difficult to find a subject or angle that hasn’t been covered and this is where your unique voice will set you apart.
If you keep at it, readers will return – not because of what you’re saying but how you’re saying it.
Be Authentic in Your Choices
In a previous post we talked about finding your USP and your subject.
Your own unique voice can be your USP.
Choose a subject that you are truly passionate about. You may not have any ‘new’ information but readers will love how genuinely excited you are about it.
This is another area where your own authenticity will keep you going.
5 Ways to Keep Your Authenticity Authentic
1. Remember that whatever you are writing – will be read by someone, somewhere. Visualize that person and write as if you are talking to them. This takes a bit of practice but becomes easier the more you do it.
If you find it hard to imagine a person, use someone you know. Imagine that you are talking to a good friend.
2. Don’t avoid telling personal anecdotes that support what you’re writing about – but do keep them brief and relevant.
People love stories that they can relate to. It makes them feel that they know you – but don’t go overboard.
Keep your life story for your autobiography when you’re rich and famous.
3. Avoid using long words or complicated terminology – even if you would use it in real life. No reader likes to feel that they are being talked down to.
If something is complicated, find a simple way to explain it that will take your reader with you – and won’t leave them behind, feeling stupid.
I would also say avoid swearing or cursing. I’ve noticed a recent surge of bloggers and writers who do both. Call me old fashioned but for every person who thinks it’s cool or edgy, there are ten more who find it irritating, unnecessary and a turn off. I’d love to know what you think – let me know in the comments section or drop me an email.
4. Involve your readers. It’s all too easy to get carried away and write a monologue but keep in mind that you are making friends with your reader. Take your time to build up their trust by always delivering quality, enjoyable content. Try and look at what you’re saying, from your readers point of view. What sort of questions would they ask you? Be one step ahead and answer those questions if and when they arise.
5. Don’t straitjacket yourself with grammar, punctuation or spelling. Just let the words flow. You can always go back later and edit it. If you do, don’t over edit it. It’s easy to kill the spontanaety of a piece. If in doubt, leave it overnight and then read it again the next day. You’ll be surprised by what pops out at you.
Above all, enjoy what you do. And enjoy being yourself.
Enjoyment is your driving force, your motivation and your pay off.
You’ll know that you’ve turned the corner when you start to look forward to writing for your website or blog.
Once you can relax and share your passion with your readers – you’re on to a winner.
Good luck – let me know how you get on!
I've been a freelance writer for ten years. You name it - I've probably written it. I love working from home and I want to help you so that you can love it too. Hook up with me on Social Media and let's enjoy the journey together.