Writing articles like this is one of the most difficult tasks in my life, and something I’ve been avoiding. The irony is not lost on me, given that I work full-time as a writer.
I move in and out of other people’s voices all the time. Why is writing my own content so difficult?
When I left my full-time job in May 2021, I was excited about the prospect of having lots of time to write. I was sure that it was merely a problem of time, and once I had more of it, the stories that had built up inside of my brain would come pouring out. I relished the idea of stories flowing out of me uninhibited, and my only task would be to collect them.
No surprise, that isn’t what happened. Instead, I discovered that a lack of time was the story I had been telling myself and in actual fact, I share the same challenges my clients have expressed:
- Unsure about writing topics, particularly in a way that feels interesting and connected to my work
- Lack of a writing process or workflow, which prevented me from moving smoothly from ideas to drafts to publishing
- Hesitation about actually publishing – what if it’s terrible and no one reads it?
I have stories from the last 25 years of work and life that I want to share. What was holding me back?
Stepping out from behind the ‘ghost’ persona
I have always been the voice for others – the “second-in-command” in organizations or the maestro behind the scenes of change programs, crafting emails, presentations, scripts, and other communications for the leaders of large scale change programs. It’s true that I was typically the one writing the communication strategy and helping shape the message as it rolled out, but it wasn’t me behind the “send button” or on stage, which gave me the ability to stay behind the scenes or truthfully, arms-length from the message.I didn’t need to analyze what I would say in these situations, just help channel the voices of others.
The same is true for my work today. As a content writer for consultants and coaches, I help design, shape, and write the articles and case studies that help my clients establish their authority and grow their business. My work focuses on helping identify what they believe, and shape their content to land with their desired audience. So why can’t I do this for myself? Seems easy, right? When I started to dig into this more closely, I realized that I have rarely had to put my own thoughts and opinions in writing. I have been writing from a very young age, often in journals, then through university essays and for the entirety of my career. Yet very little work has been published under my own name. My online portfolio is sparse. I lurk more than I share on social media – in personal knowledge management (PKM) terms, I’m a collector more than a creator. It’s more comfortable to play it safe, to hide and not step out of the shadows with your own work. I’ve been playing small, and it’s time to step into my own work more boldly.
How I started to find my writing voice
As I think about myself as my own client, the first step is to consider the focus of my writing. Asking questions like:
- Who is your audience?
- What are they struggling with?
- What do you know to be true, based on your own experience?
- How does your desired writing connect with your best work?
- What change do you want to create in the world?
Looking at these questions for my own work helped me see my work in a new light. I started to play around with the combination of words like change, feminism, writing and resilience, and slowly new ideas began to emerge.
“Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence. It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt.”– Tara Mohr, author Playing Big: Finding Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message
If I’m stuck or struggling, my first thought is to find articles or books to help me sort it out, rather than thinking about my own experience. I look to the experience of others to help me solve my problems, rather than connecting to my own experience. I find myself scanning the Twitter threads of people with a fraction of the work experience I have, instead of reflecting on where I’ve encountered this issue before or how I’ve solved it for others.
So in a time of “50 book challenges” and speed reading how-to videos, I’ve decided to read less and reflect more. To be fair, I’m still reading a lot by some standards, but I’m not doing it with a sense of urgency that the answer to life’s mysteries has been solved, if only I could find the right book. I’m finding ways to reflect and consider my own experiences, and pushing myself to share my thoughts more often.
“In order to add lasting, meaningful value, we must—eventually—find our own voice.”– Todd Henry, author, Accidental Creative
I’m ready to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight. I’m channeling the hubris of a 25-year-old white male and starting to share my own thoughts, ideas, and stories.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me.