This story was written in November 2018, one month after starting to publish on Medium. I’ve come a long way since then.
I was writing something earlier today, and it occurred to me that after many years and a whole lot of work, I finally know how to write something that people like to read. I don’t know why I never thought of this with such clarity.
I don’t want to say I am a great writer, not even good, but I have been working hard trying to get the people who follow me, and others in the audience, to read and enjoy what I have to say.
I feel like I am inspired to write lately.
When I first started scribbling my thoughts in wire-bound notebooks, my style at best could be called raw. But, one thing I did correctly was to write as I talk. Like I am having a conversation. Whenever I sit to write, there is a conversation going on in my head, and if I am successful, it gets translated effectively to the page. I don’t know how other writers operate, but I think it’s similar. Many may say it’s their muse who they are conversing with while they are writing.
I think it’s the inner me — the subconscious me that guides what I do, say, and write.
If you are anything like me, you probably analyze everything you do, including your writing. This analysis often makes me do things like editing my writing after every paragraph or constantly rereading every line I write. There are times when I don’t do it, like when I am “in flow,” and my writing is effortless and natural. I wish I could say flow happens a lot, but it doesn’t.
Lessons I’ve Learned and Things I Do
Now that I have years of practice under my belt, I feel like I have become seasoned. I am by no means perfect — I don’t think anyone can say that with a straight face. But I’ve developed a kind of rhythm.
While I still search desperately for the voice that will propel me to writing stardom, I do have a certain way I spin words. I think if we all look hard enough, you will find that we all do.
I read for several hours each day. What I’ve figured out is that I can tell if each writer is writing with their natural voice. One thing that sets writers apart is how conversational their writing appears to be. I don’t tend to follow a writer who puts on airs or tries to be something they’re not.
I can spot a blowhard from a mile away.
That is why, if you look at my profile, I don’t follow everyone who follows me. If someone follows me, I take the time to read what they have to say and see if I can relate somehow. I don’t pay attention to grammar, punctuation, or structure because everybody is at a different place with their writing. I pay attention to their voice and see if they come across as genuine.
I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I would be much more successful than I am today. But I know good writing when I see it, and the majority of the time, I feel like they are speaking right to me.
I Don’t Know Much
I try to absorb as much as I can every day. Much of the time I focus on things that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, I look at what’s going on in the world so I can be current with what I write.
I wasn’t always such a well-rounded person. I cloistered myself and didn’t care much about what was going on around me. You would know this immediately if you read anything I wrote during that time. The conversational quality of my work suffered because I was unaware of anything that was going on around me.
It’s not possible to live in a vacuum and be an effective or particularly conversational writer.
I don’t know everything about everything, but I make it a point to stay informed and know what’s going on so that when I write, I sound like an interesting person. Whether I’m actually an interesting person remains to be seen, but at least I can sound like it.
I’ve learned a couple of things.
One way to be more conversational in your writing is by being honest. Notice I don’t say as honest as possible. I believe it is possible to always be honest. Sometimes, honesty can be controversial and may make some people angry. Not everyone will like you all the time (a fact I struggle with at times as a people-pleaser), nor should they. They may not like what you are saying, but they will respect you if you are honest.
As a final point, notice your use of language when you talk. Do you usually use big words or make complicated sentences? If you do, that is your voice. I tend to use simple language with a few flowery words sprinkled here and there. I also tend to use profanity. Pick your battles. There are times (like this) when it’s best not to use coarse language as some people will be turned off immediately. It’s all part of knowing your audience.
What Can You Do?
Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you don’t normally speak a certain way, don’t write that way. Changing your natural voice may be necessary when writing a groundbreaking piece of fiction or poetry, but for everyday writing, as you see here on Medium, or most blogs, writing as you speak will never steer you in the wrong direction.
If you don’t feel like your writing is as natural as a conversation, pay more attention to your actual conversations throughout the day. After I talk to someone, even during late-night pillow talks with my wife, I make a note of how well the conversation went, and how I can incorporate it into my writing.
I also try not to think too hard as I write, focusing on instead letting the words flow freely.
Put a little work into it, and before long, your writing will become more conversational and effective.
Who knows where it will take you?