I have this fundamental belief that successful businesses launch from passion. Am in good company here as we live in a glorious time where most coaches, consultants, fire starters and business mavens advocate the same. Passion can’t be taught, nor bought (though one of the aforementioned professionals can help you tease it out) and the root of the passion is always TRUTH. Now truth and passion may sometimes dance a sloppy two-step, but when they do sync up, you’ve got yourself some hip-shaking grease lightening.

What’s ALSO glorious about this time is that many people start their businesses with a blog. Maybe they start the blog first before they start the business, or maybe the business comes first and then the blog comes along as a marketing tool. Maybe it’s a “should” or an “oughtta” (I hope not…shoulds and oughttas = don’t bother).

I am getting somewhere…promise.

This whole blog thing can be a huge stopper for some people. From some of my clients, I hear:

  • What do I possibly have to say {lots}
  • Who could possibly want to hear it? {your people}
  • Where do I even start? {from here}
  • What’s my voice supposed to be? {ahhhhhhhhhh...yes}

So, when Facebook and Twitter friend Emma Alvarez Gibson posted a status update about her Brand Alchemy Sessions that address this very issue of finding one’s voice, I was curious.

So I messaged her about it and she responded with:

“Please, ask away! I really think I can help...this is one of the things I was born to do. Xoxo”

*Serious swoon* When people identify that they know what they were born to do, as in Life Purpose kind of stuff, I get goose bump-y and tingly with a desire to know more.

So, she graciously complied. Generous and lovely... a winning combo.

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Tell me more about how you were born to help in this way…I have my popcorn and am ready to hear it all. How did you discover this was your gift (and personal brand of genius)? Are there more?

 

I’m someone who’s always lived sort of between worlds. Ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically. Even in terms of interests, I’m all over the place. I’m fascinated by almost everything, and that includes people. It all, on some level, makes sense to me.  Also, I’m—ahem!—highly sensitive. To...everything. Sounds, textures, colors, scents. People breathing at me wrong. (Just kidding! Ha, ha!) (Okay, not really.) (I am, a little.)

So, what this all means is that I tend to notice patterns that maybe not everyone notices. And that helps me better understand who and what I’m dealing with; I’m able to speak in the way that makes the most sense to them.

And that helps me to do what I think is really the big, big picture for me: doing what I can to make people feel acknowledged and accepted. A friend of mine once very kindly said that what I do is create space for people to be themselves, and I love that. It’s what I aspire to. Once in awhile I get it right, even.

Why do you think we struggle with finding our voice? What do you think holds us back?

 

 

There’s a sense of safety ascribed to fitting in, and it’s comforting to find that place where you’re safe and have a place and a purpose. Raising your voice, sticking your neck out, particularly during those hideously painful and awkward formative years, can cost you. Maybe it’s not worth the price, at that point in time, and maybe the safety is vitally important—and I’m being ironic here, because safety is vitally important—so you sort of put it aside and get on with things. We’re creatures of habit. Raising your voice becomes a language you used to speak. (Happily, it’s not hard to recover fluency.)

What’s the link between voice and brand?

 

Brand is currency. It’s about projecting a message, a sort of shorthand, to the world.

Voice is intimacy. It’s about how you connect, and what’s driving you, and about the sum total of your experiences.

(If brand is the cute boy with the black hair and guitar, then voice is how he looks at you, how he holds your hand.)

Do you use any filters in your writing…beyond the “knowing your audience” stuff? (I have a couple: that my words are aligned with my values, that mother-in-law will still take my calls and that I feel 80% proud of my posts…I’d still be working on my first post if I were going for 100%)

 

Authenticity, buzzword though it may be, is everything. But it’s hard sometimes to be authentic without hurting someone who matters. It’s a challenge I put myself through: how can I approach this story so that it’s about whatever it’s about, without creating regret or shame or whatever it might be, in anyone else? It can be a matter of the words you use or the words you leave out. Or a matter of structure or back story. If you truly want to tell your story, you’ll find a way to do it.

That said, sometimes it’s best to scrap the whole thing. (This is a general life rule, as well.)

When I hear crickets after posting on my blog (as in no one comments, responds or retweets) I tend to collude with my saboteurs who tell me that my writing is just not very good and blah de blah blah. And then I brush that off and get back to work. Sometimes it is easier than other times. What advice to you give to others in the same place?

Isn’t that crap, though? Ugh. It’s such a mental parlor trick, too. Because you tell yourself you shouldn’t care. It’s one post, it’s not a big deal, maybe nobody’s had time to read it yet, whatever. And then you feel even worse, because not only are you a loser whose blog nobody ever wants to read, but now you’ve got your knickers in a twist over something that doesn’t even matter and you are even lamer than you thought you were during your darkest moments at age 13! WHY DID YOU EVER THINK YOU SHOULD BE ANYWHERE NEAR THE INTERNET?

Yeah. I know. It totally sucks.

I find that it helps me to let myself feel bad for a couple of minutes. If I can tell myself, “Yeah, that…wow. I kind of feel like crying,” and not be judgmental or harsh about it, then I get over it much more efficiently. Acknowledging that it’s awkward or painful or whatever, and feeling it, helps me to move through the lameness, and then dump it. And, miraculously, by the time I’m done feeling it, I’m usually feeling pretty badass again.

Because it doesn’t really matter. This one post, this one lack of whatever, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re sincere in your efforts. Listening to that still, small voice inside of you. Doing what you know you’re meant to be doing. Staying pure of heart and all of that. That’s what matters.

Attention is most excellent; it’s a fantastic buzz. Enjoy it when people tell you they love what you’ve written. But never forget that you’re doing this to fulfill some greater purpose.

And if that’s not why you’re doing it, stop. Go find whatever it is you are supposed to be doing.

I think it’s easy for new bloggers to default to others’ proven styles, and while imitation may be the highest form of flattery, am wondering where you think it gets someone if they appropriate another’s voice?

Ideally, it gets them to a place where they begin to recognize their own voice. Imitation is something we all do, to varying degrees. I learn best by doing, so I’ve always first sort of “traced” someone else’s work to start with. It gives you a reference point, shows you how to do something without having to suffer all the consequences of forging it yourself. And then you can move on and do all your own stunts.

(But actively trying to write like someone else, trying to pass it off as your own voice, is simply counterproductive. And stupid. )

I keep thinking of you as a writing voice coach….do you have any “scales” for someone to run through to get their voice on right now? With the same abandon they may have belting out Aaron Neville in the shower?

Think of something you did recently—went to buy a cup of coffee, say—and write it down as though you were telling your best friend about it. Keep it short. Then write down how you’d tell your grandmother about it. Then your boss. Then a co-worker. Then a child. Then someone you want to have dinner-and-a-movie with. (Yes. That is, in fact, a euphemism.)

Now read them all. What, besides the actual events, keeps coming through? If it seems like not much of anything, keep writing. Try a different story and do the same thing.

I really like the analogy of scales. They’re not exciting. They seem almost offensively primitive at first. (I took piano, so let’s run with that for a bit, shall we?) You think, “But I want to play piano, not play these same stupid notes up and down the keys for an hour. This isn’t music!” And you’re right, it’s not. But it is the only way to build a relationship with the instrument. Which is the only way to improve.

Whose voice do you love? This is veeeeeeery wide open here. It can be someone’s voice that just speaks to your soul in an authentic way, or someone whose content would be meaningless in another’s voice.

There’s a sort of “ping!” that I hear when the voice and the person are one and the same. (It’s similar to the “click” that I feel when I see good branding.) That’s what I love most, and it can happen with anyone’s voice. But if we’re talking a few favourites:

Blogs:

Maggie Mason (mightygirl.com)

Havi Brooks (fluentself.com)

Twitter:

Daniel Poeira (@daniel_poeira)

Daniel Thurston (@Daniel4is)

(I also follow people on Twitter who are not named Daniel.)

Books:

Joanne Harris (Chocolat, The Girl With No Shadow)

Frances Hodgson Burnett  (A Little Princess, The Secret Garden)

Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient, In The Skin of a Lion, Elimination Dance)

All of the above:

William Gibson (williamgibsonbooks.com, @greatdismal, Pattern Recognition)

Frank Delaney (frankdelaney.com, @FDbytheword, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)

In their own category:

Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement (flightoftheconchords.com)

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Raising your voice, creating space, talking about cute boys and authenticity. You love her too, don'tcha? You can find this whip-smart wordsmith, media maven, editrix extraordinaire at:

http://www.emmaalvarezgibson.com

twitter: @ealvarezgibson

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