There is an overabundance of travel blogs. It’s true. And because readers have a limited amount of time to engage with blogs, there must be something unique about yours to captivate readers. One of the key elements of blogging is to find your own, distinctive writing voice.
An author’s writing voice has many ingredients, such as writing style, tone, syntax and humor.
However, at its heart, writing voice is a reflection of an individual’s singular lens of viewing the world.
The journey to find your blog voice can be a difficult one. I started my blog, Running with Elands, soon after I received all of my Peace Corps clearances. When I sat down to write my first few posts, I felt stymied by my lack of experience blogging. What did people who were reading Peace Corps blogs want to hear about? Was a kitschy title more important or rich cultural detail? I took a break from writing and researched the Peace Corps Blog It Home winners for inspiration. I pored over their topics, stories, blog design and photos for inspiration.
I decided to keep my writing light and somewhat whimsical. My posts were often banal, sugar-coating my Peace Corps South Africa experience. I was too concerned with how my posts might be received to do the hard work of translating my lived reality into words. Sometimes, I began to break out of that habit. I found myself grappling with more serious issues in my village, making my formerly light tone seem inappropriate. I slowed down to blogging once a month. My posts became near novellas and dealt with more somber topics—my identity crisis, the living trauma of apartheid’s after-effects and the struggles for basic necessities.
However, neither end of that spectrum really captured my voice. I had my first real break-through in finding my authentic voice when I wrote my post “Romanticizing Peace Corps,” where I shared my struggles as a volunteer and the Peace Corps experience not living up to my inflated expectations. I initially wrote it as a way to process my emotions without any intention for it to become a blog post, but as I talked with other volunteers, I realized it was an emotional experience that many volunteers could relate to.
I still struggle with my blog voice. It can be easy to let the noise of so many other (sometimes better) travel blogs drown out your ability to write authentically, but it’s worth the struggle for me. I suspect that like most travel, the journey is more important than the destination. As I continue to fight for my own voice, I’ve found the following tips helpful.
Reacquaint yourself with your voice
Read over journal entries, texts, emails, letters, and other writing to close friends and family. Observe your writing style. What is your sense of humor like? Do you tend to aggrandize tales, or are you more factual? Do you prefer to relate events through photos or text? Copy down any key phrases that you use often or would like to use again. Try to develop a list of three key traits you notice about your voice. For example, I love to use puns, alliteration, and references to TV shows/movies; I tend to exaggerate; and I typically focus more on content than on description.
If you still don’t feel you have a clear picture of your voice, try this exercise. Pick a location during a time when other people will be there. Take a mental snapshot of what is going on around you, then translate that snapshot onto the page. What about that moment was important to you? Are you more focused on describing the physical attributes of the world around you? On the actions that are occurring? Do you use many metaphors? Are you
spending more time describing the moment itself or on other moments from your life that it reminds you of?
Build in time to edit your post for authenticity
I’ve discovered that when I give myself a day between the draft and published version, I am able to come back to my post refreshed and energized. I re-read each draft and, where possible, inject more of my voice. It can be helpful to look at the list from the previous tip next to your draft and also to use the next tip, reading your post out loud. Sometimes you may even need to take a break from posting for a while to get back into the rhythm.
Read your post out loud
This process can help to identify where your writing may have become stilted. It can also help to talk through some of your post ideas out loud before you write. Take advantage of the fact that nearly every phone has a voice recording app to capture your uninhibited thoughts. Sometimes, I like to pretend that I’m relating a story to one of my best friends.
Write as though you’re the only one who will read it
Itching to write a blog post about the comings and goings beneath the giant oak tree in your village but holding back because it might be boring to readers? Write it. Want to use an obscure reference? Do it. Focus on what you’re passionate about in your writing, and write the way you want to. Loving what you’re writing will inspire that same love in other people, and it will give you the motivation to continue blogging.
Try exercising your creativity in other mediums
Much like exercising your physical muscles, your creativity often benefits from cross-training. This month, I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, a creative writing challenge. Flexing my creative muscles in a different way has given me a renewed sense of love for writing and of the importance of my own unique voice. I also enjoy journaling, coloring, reading and listening to music as ways to stoke the flames of inspiration.
What are tips and tricks that you’ve used to find and encourage your blogging voice? Share them
below in the comments!
Lindsay Kuhn is a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, where she works as a Community HIV/Outreach
Project Volunteer and blogs at https://runningwithelands.wordpress.com.