Why Finding Your Blogging and Online Voice is a Total Myth

by Marcus Sheridan

It’s a windy Saturday morning here in Burgess Virginia. I’m sitting in my office and looking out the window, contemplating where and who I was three years ago when I started this blog, The Sales Lion. And in 2009 when I wrote the first article of this site—Death of Salesman—little did I know what would become of the TSL brand, community, and ultimately my career.

And to this day, I still have no idea.

Nor do I think I’ve “found my voice” as we so often read about in the million or so “How to Blog” guides that are out there.

What’s funny is I once wrote about how I found my online voice.

Since that time, I’ve reached another conclusion. I hadnt’ found my voice at all, rather, I’d just moved on to a newer version of me. My focus, thoughts, and passions had changed—and with it, my writings.

But that’s the way blogs, business, and life work.

They change.

Tomorrow Never Arrives

That’s also why finding your blogging voice is like saying, “tomorrow is here.”

Nope, tomorrow never arrives.

I’m not the only one. Hang around the online world long enough and you’ll see bloggers and writers changing their style all the time.

Take Geoff Livingston for example. Geoff is a smart guy, a published author, and a passionate thinker.

In the past, Geoff has written some pretty polarizing stuff, and more than once he and I have been on opposing sides of the argument.

But recently Geoff turned over a new leaf. In fact, he announced he was going to change, and since that time the difference in his writings has been quite astounding.

Has Geoff found his voice? Although I certainly don’t speak for Geoff here, my opinion is that he is just continuing to develop and evolve, which is the only way any of us can make it for long in this difficult business of the online world.

Or take my friend Chris Brogan.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Chris has gone through some major changes recently. He has shifted much of his focus from the blog to more of an emphasis on deep relationships with his email/newsletter audience.

Chris Brogan Home Page

As his site has done before and will continue to do so, Chris Brogan is always changing and evolving who he is online.

Also, his site was completely redesigned and revamped.

As a big fan of Chris, I watch him with great interest and learning, because I know this is just another stage of the development of his voice and business,  and that eventually, he will change again.

Growth

I could literally go on and on with stories and observations of others who are still developing their online voice, but I’m sure you get my point.

Frankly, after doing this now for 3 years and having written over 350,000 words in my “voice”—my suggestion to others in the online world is this:

From this day forward, stop worrying about “finding your voice.”

And if you do find it, throw it back in the river so you can find it again later.

Finding is not the goal here.

This is about GROWTH, pure and simple.

And trust me when I tell you that if you’re growing, happiness will follow.

Your Turn

I’m very curious to know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on finding your voice, and would love to hear about  your experiences with this subject. Do you think we ever really find our voice or is it more a matter of moving to the next phase of who we are? And what stages have you been through up to this point in your blog and business?

Don’t forget, your thoughts matter.

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{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Livingston November 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thank you, Marcus. As you know I have worked hard to bring tonality and just a better sense of respect to my writing. I am glad to see it is resonating.

I think your commentary actually speaks to the flaws in branding individuals, in the sense that we evolve. Some of us regress. But none of us stay the same. In that sense you are spot on and I am going to continue to change, and inevitably the writing will change with me. That is only human.

Good post, and thank you for your encouragement.

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Jeremy Abel November 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Hi Marcus,

You are spot ON my friend. Our voice is never set in stone, nor should it be. Voice is an adaptive state- a description of how well we communicate our passion for a topic based on our audience. And that topic is directly tied to our personal goals. As our personal goals change, so too must our communication, and then our voice (it has a trickle-down effect, from most stable to most malleable).

As my passion for the field of inbound has grown considerably, so too has my voice. I know that in order to reach my personal goals (educate clients on the importance of inbound marketing), it’s critical that I communicate this passion with clients, and consequently tailor my voice to a level that resonates with them. My voice must deliver a genuine sense of empathy for that client’s needs, whether I am speaking with a Marketing Director or a CEO. At 24 years old, there’s no doubt that my voice will continue to change in the years ahead.

Yet our voice is a state, not a trait; it is malleable for good reason, as it sheds light on our ever-changing goals.

As always, keep changing lives Marcus- another killer topic.

Jeremy

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Chimezirim Odimba November 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Well, I’ve never bothered about finding my voice — I already have it whenever I write something that’s true to me. Do you ever bother about finding your voice when you want to explain something to a friend? Do you bother about finding your voice when you want to teach or explain something to a real human being? No, you focus on explaining or teaching the way you know best and, if you do that right, then you’ve done your job.

I think we are bombarded with a lot of terms and cliches simply because people want to carve out a space for themselves. I really don’t bother about all those terms (both old and new unless it affects my bottom line in a way that’s clear to me). I focus on meeting the needs of my target customer. If they call that my voice, well I don’t have any problems with that. I have more important things to do than finding my voice — I already have it.

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Rhett November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Marcus, I really like reading this article. It made me reflect on how my writing has changed over the years. I don’t think it a bad thing at all and it’s only natural for your “voice” to change as time goes along. As grow you learn more about the world and gain experience in many different areas. These new experiences sometimes are interesting or dramatic enough to change your focus and your point of view on things. As such, this changes your writing syle.

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Rebecca Livermore November 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I find this one interesting, Marcus, because I recently made a pretty major shift in the content I’m writing. This came about after a conversation with a business coach who helped me to see that the approach I was taking needed to change in order to meet my objectives. It wasn’t that the writing was bad, and it was certainly meeting a need in people, but it wasn’t necessarily helping me get where I need to go. It was like my content was propelling people east, when my objective is directly west of me.

I’m still figuring out what this new voice is supposed to sound like, and I’m actually in the middle of writing a blog post that is going to sound strangely like my old voice (but with a subtle difference that is better aligned with my objectives).

Interestingly enough, 2 blog posts into my new “voice,” I got a couple of unsubscribes, which is rare for me. Me thinks the unsubscribers don’t like my new voice. But you know what? That’s actually perfect, because the ones who really resonate with that other aspect of who I am aren’t going to get me where I, at least for the moment, think I’m headed. ;)

Rebecca

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John Verba November 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

It sounds vaguely new age to me, and here’s why. When I was growing up in a small town in western PA, I was already the kid whose first job would be as a senior copywriter at the second largest ad agency in Baltimore. So if I expressed observations about life as I saw it, as a western PA HS or college student, I could consistently leave people scratching their heads. And that could get you smacked pretty good, back there, but it also knocked people off balance and a lot of them seemed to need that. There was so much concern, back there, about not giving the kids “false hopes” or about “asking too much of the kids.” It wasn’t bad to point out, “These people are teaching you about things they’ve never experienced; they haven’t a clue.”

Fast forward a ways and it’s still not hard to do the same thing in DC. Many people attend to and learn only about what affects them. And they speak “knowledgeably” about people and things that might as well be on Mars, for all they really know about them. And so I fill in some gaps, from experience, in comments and on here and other places. And then people, usually privately, as always, thank me for the thought-proving insight. And I’ve never minded that role. It comes very naturally to me, and seems to help.

But I can also sit down and write direct response and conventional ads and websites that pay for themselves over and over, and that lead to companies’ hiring, and increasing their space, and I’ve regularly played a key role in very good people reaching their very good goals.

Doing that is NOTHING like the role I earlier described. I’d bet Marcus and I would both agree that the proper voice, or the authentic voice, for selling lots of fiberglass pools would be one that never acknowledges that other kinds of pools also have strong selling points, that maybe your money would be better spent elsewhere, and that hanging out in a pool isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Your naturally best online voice is the opposite of the one I described above, and this is how it sounds, “You know that thing you want? It’s ideal for you! You’re a genius for wanting it! And we’re here to help you get it. Let’s go! Unless you still need a little more time and have some questions before you…do the SMARTEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE!”

But, lest you get the wrong idea, here’s what the authentic me thinks: You know, if I get in your shoes, I really can see this pool as being a refuge for you, and rejuvenating. I can picture a pride of ownership and a community/belonging thing happening. I can see you happier, and your kids happier, and I do believe that my client is working its butt off to get you a pool that will be dependable, trouble-free and your best option for the money. I’d prefer a houseboat, myself, but, if this is your choice, and I believe in my client, then I want you to feel as sure about this decision as you possibly can; and so I’ll present it in a way that, best I can, frees you from your hesitance to act; and you’ll “get ‘er done;” and it’ll be a great outcome for you. And life will go on.

If you find that you have to fake that “voice,” or have to PRETEND that you feel someone has a need and you’re lucky enough to have a really great solution that you get to present to them without reservation…? Then your problem isn’t finding a voice…it’s finding something to offer that you get up every morning feeling eager and privileged to share with people. Fix that, and your “voice” will be eager, firm and able to capture and hold attention.

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John Verba November 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Incidentally, if you look down the row of comments so far, and try to discern the focus of each one, you might detect this pattern so far: About me; about me; about them; about me; about…me…but….

Rebecca’s post is about turning around. She actually notes that the difference is as great as east to west. I believe that. I’d even say it’s about turning around a battleship that’s got a lot of momentum behind it… because it’s really easy to sell people on the idea that the key to their success and happiness lies within themselves and is under their control…

…as opposed to having it be accepting that we can control what we can control, and then, at some point, we have to turn all control over to our prospects and customers, and live with their decisions, learn from the results, and then continually prepare to serve them better.

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Todd November 3, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I think this is a topic for a good discussion. At my first job out of college freelancing for a major record label and building websites for top recording artists, my boss put a sticky note on top of my computer that said “FIND YOUR F***ING VOICE” so that every new site I built I remembered that I was creating something for someone with a new perspective. He wasn’t the happiest guy in the world, but he did teach me a few good lessons for my entrepreneurial journey.

While I definitely agree with you that your voice is always going to evolve, especially when you have a personal site or a very personalized company, it is also important to remember the perspective that you are writing from and what your goals are (props to Rebecca on bringing this up).

I think if anything, you should create this “voice” or mindset, perspective, whatever you want to call it, just to keep your content focused. Some people (most, myself included) can easily go off on a tangent and lose sight of what their site is about, what their audience is there to learn or what they are trying to accomplish – especially when you dive into a passionate idea.

This is especially helpful if you are a marketer producing content for multiple clients as opposed to a business owner marketing themselves. When you are a marketer, you need to be able to flip the switch and become a character actor of sorts to put on the voice of who you are representing. While this definitely is not the point of all those “how to blog”/”find your blogging voice” posts out there in the saturated IM market, it is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when organizing an online presence.

Same goes for when posting for a certain brand to multiple channels – don’t use your website to always praise your customers and be grateful through customer success stories and discounts and then go on Facebook and rant about annoying people in your store. While those type of things may be obvious to us in the field, I think that is also a part of “finding your voice” and keeping your content focused on perspective.

Ironically I think I lost my voice on this little rant, but all the more fun for the discussion :)

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John Verba November 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Todd. I think this is spot on, and, seeing it from your perspective, I end up wondering if the biggest difference is simply that, for those of us who have had jobs as professional communicators that involved mentors, and for those who’ve had close relationships with self-made successes who acted as mentors, a lot of what’s said in blogs reads like this:

I am learning and being encouraged to look more and more inside myself to learn all that I don’t know yet…and what I must express of myself to attract success! Wish me luck!

I mean, to us, if you’re wandering around a networking event, writing copy for a client, writing copy for your own self-promotion, or even just getting your head straight about what you’re trying to do and why, and you’re mumbling, “Look inside. Gotta look inside. Inside is where you gotta look. Keep looking inside. Answers are there. Answers are inside,” then you’re looking and sounding like the Dustin Hoffman character in Rainman.

I wonder if the real cracked foundational message of “inbound” marketing is, “Oh, look, from now on, you don’t have to worry about or focus on your prospects anymore, or ever ask them to commit to anything! They’ll talk amongst themselves, find and focus on you, and show up, check in hand!”

And while everyone’s waiting for that to happen, they talk about things like an authentic voice and a whole lot of other things besides, “How’s your ROI, how productive are your efforts, and what are you testing to improve your results?”

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Jason Hull November 4, 2012 at 7:46 am

Maybe the way to differentiate is to acknowledge that there are two processes at work here. The first is to be authentic with your communications. Chimezerim’s first paragraph in his comment is spot on – there’s no finding your voice, so to speak, when you speak with authenticity and heart. Look at how popular James Altucher has become. He says that he bleeds on his blog, and it shows. Nobody doubts that what James writes comes from his heart. Writing with authenticity creates integrity for your readers. When you’re authentic, your readers can trust that what you communicate is what you believe.

The second aspect of it is the knowledge and competence that backs up the authenticity. You can speak from the heart and really believe it, but if you say the sky is black, no matter how much you believe it to be so, it’s simply not true. It’s like when I was a brand new, wet behind the ears second lieutenant in the Army. No matter how much I believed something to be true, if I uttered the words “in my experience” in front of my soldiers, I’d have been laughed off of my tank. So, the growth of which you speak is the gathering of the knowledge, experience, and hopefully the wisdom of the matter about which you communicate.

When you blend the two, then you have power. It also gives you license to express opinions when you haven’t seen something before, but have seen an analogous situation. For example, I’ve never received an inheritance, so I can’t say what that’s like and don’t have the personal memories to draw upon when giving advice on what to do with an inheritance. What I can do, though, is to draw analogies. I have sold a company, so I do know what it’s like to deal with the windfall. I have had friends and loved ones die; therefore, I know what it’s like to deal with the emotions. So, I can use those stories to empathize and to create the bond when giving advice which is heartfelt, and, hopefully, acted upon.

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Jason, dude, I loved this. If you’re only writing about estate planning, you seriously should consider branching out, because your two points here were seriously spot-on my friend. Wowza!

It’s funny, because I’m literally sitting in an airport right now, reading and responding to all these comments, and thinking to myself, “Now this is what a blog comment section is supposed to be like. The commenters contribute more than the author of the post.”

I can’t thank you enough sir,

Marcus

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John Verba November 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Marcus. I was thinking the same thing except it came out like, “Wow, who are these super intelligent people who look like they could convincing argue both sides of an issue and then, with nuance, explain the weaknesses in each argument and why one premise, then, is the one to act on”?

…as opposed to, “Every business needs a blog and if you don’t get that let me get my baseball bat and I’ll explain it to you.” : )

Jason’s statement, “I have sold a company” says so much. ; )

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Jason Hull November 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm

You gentlemen are too kind. Since you’re both in NoVA and I’m heading to Charlottesville for the first week of 2013, dare I be so bold as to suggest perhaps a meetup over a coffee or a beer? I’m happy to take the discussion offline away from the comments.

BTW, Marcus, you’ll notice in my CommentLuv that I don’t just write about estate planning. I also write about porn! :-)

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John Verba November 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I just journeyed back this way… took the time to figure out that the porn you write about is “chart porn”… and read a bit about “a set of Templeton mutual funds which had a serious front load.” You’re certainly welcome to shoot me an email at jmverba@aredpenguin.com. We can discuss from there, if you wish. John.

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:26 am

Sure things John :-)

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David Gillaspie November 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

Hey Marcus,

Voice in a writer is different than The Voice on tv. Sure we’re all singing, but to a different beat. Your post reminded me of the difference between actors and movie stars.

The actor is the name you see in the credits and think, “I know their work, but didn’t recognize them here.” The movies star you see from the beginning.

Writers work the same ground from another angle. One might be a blogger, mystery writer, and screenwriter. Another might be a greeting card writer focusing on birthdays. Which one has found their voice?

I’ve been a writer seeking a voice, mine, theirs, anyone’s. You know it when you read it. Once you find a voice that makes sense, you look for more of it. That’s what fans do. Then their voice starts influencing your work.

Once upon a time the greatest tribute a writer could garner was being “The Voice Of My Generation.” In the past it might have been Hemingway, or Steinbeck, or Faulkner. More recently maybe John Irving. Who is it now, J.K. Rowling?

My shot goes to the Baby Boomer generation. Not their retirement, not their vacations or real estate, but their set-aside passion for something better. We’ve all known firebrands who get older, get tired, and accept what life drops on them as inevitable. No argument there.

But why not kick it while you can? Any voice that makes people get up and go is one worth hearing. Like yours, Marcus.

Good work.

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Dang David, now that was one heck of a deep comment my friend. Seriously :-)

Love your take, and I’d be lying if I said “being the voice of a generation” didn’t sound like a great goal ;-)

Cheers friend, and you can go ahead and leave comments like that on here whenever you’d like!

Marcus

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Mark November 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

To me finding a voice is the willingness to share what’s inside of you with the world, coupled with discovering there are people who need to hear what you have to say.

Everything that exists in this world is initiated and built on words and conversations – and there’s words inside of everyone of us that impacts the lives of others.

Without your voice and the words they carry, somebody’s future is in jeopardy!

I bet you never thought of it that way before :o

It’s natural to see a person like Chris Brogan change his online persona… In life, ambitious doers with an eye for the future always change & evolve and if you’re being real with your online activities, what you’re projecting will evolve to.

The fact is, if you’re the same as you were 5, 10, 20 years ago, there maybe a disconnect somewhere along the line – you may need to seek some professional help! (Just kidding, sort of – hehe!)

Funny, all you have to do is go to a high school reunion and you will to see people who haven’t changed on bit – it’s almost like entering the Twilight Zone – YIKES!

But I digress…

My idea of what ‘finding your voice’ is different than yours, Marcus – no biggie, just different.

I think the faster you find your online voice (get the courage to share YOU with the world) the faster you’ll get to discovering your purpose in life.

And whatever you do – - – DON’T THROW IT IN THE RIVER!

Cheers brother!

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Hahaha, well said Harai, and I do see you point.

Yes, this is somewhat semantics, no doubt. I likely should have put it like this:

It’s important that you “have” an voice that’s true to you.

But “finding” that voice is simply not the goal, as it’s not a destination, but rather a stop along what is many in the path to self-discovery, success, etc.

You rock buddy, and thanks so much for the thoughtful comment.

Marcus

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Gary Korisko November 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

Amen, Marcus.

This should be required reading for any blogger in their first year. The pressure and stress of “finding your voice” can wreck havoc on progress for sure. I and others who are new-ish to blogging would be much better served to chase ‘progress’ instead of some concrete, final, permanent voice.

And, as you point out, as a human, if you ever feel completely finished and satisfied…you ARE finished.

One of my favorite TSL posts, Marcus. Well done!

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Gary, thanks for the kind words my man. I write this type of stuff because I clearly remember what it was like when I was just getting going, and I know I don’t want others to fall victim to those same misconceptions and bad habits.

Keep pushing hard my friend,

Marcus

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Gary Korisko November 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

You know I will.

Just trying to get that snowball up the hill … you know.

Thanks for a refreshing break from the ‘chamber.’

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Leon Noone November 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

G’Day Marcus,
May I start by saying that some bloggers seem to take themselves and their blogging much too seriously. As you know, I run a B2B blog. It’s a major part of my overall marketing strategy. My prime concern is to help readers in my target market to improve employee performance and improve overall business performance through that.

Sometimes I get a sneaking suspicion that some bloggers are too concerned with what they have to say and to little concerned with who they’re saying it to.

Perhaps becoming too concerned about “your blogging and online voice” voice is a symptom of that

Have fun
Best Wishes
Leon

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm

That’s a very, very good point Leon. In fact, it’s a major problem and all bloggers and businesses need be incredibly careful not to fall into that trap. Frankly, I’m sure there have been times in my past when I likely whiffed on this one too.

But I’m still having fun ;-)

Marcus

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Ralph November 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

Hey Marcus,
It is refreshing to read something that takes a purely practical viewpoint. I am in the midst of reading No Bullshit Social Media. I happen to like the approach. They talk about the hippie mentality and it’s not the first time I have felt that. No more Kumbaya.

To me talking about finding voice is like that. Kumbaya. Bloggers are people and they will have a style and that will evolve with their experience. I know this because I am in my own head and I watch how others evolve along side myself. In other words we figure out what BS and what’s not over time. That’s finding your voice.

When you have run the gamut of talking about everything other than what you are really trying to accomplish then you have found your proverbial voice.

I am not there yet. I am still working my way out of the Kumbaya moments and hopefully the fear of really committing to what I want to do will abate soon. Until then, love, peace and all things fuzzy.

Thanks for writing this. To me, it’s an important phase of development for a blogger. Cheers!

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Ralph, great hearing from you bud.

Yep, Falls is certainly as frank and “real” as they come, which is why I really dig the guy.

I also think it’s really cool you acknowledge working your way out of the “kumbaya” side of this, which I think is something we all fall victim to at times.

Continued success my friend, you’re on your way there.

Marcus

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M. Halliburton November 4, 2012 at 11:05 am

Marcus,

Interesting timing on your blog as I have been wondering what my voice is because my content has been all about educating my clients in regards to my industry. As I continue to write content for my new website I have often asked myself…what do I say once this most of the content is written; really looking forward to discovering what this will be. Thank you for your post and the comments by everyone else, very helpful.

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

The cool thing is Marc that as long as you continue to push and write, you’ll absolutely discover whatever “it” is. I’ve seen this again and again from myself and so many others. But without laying the groundwork (with “work” being the key part), nothing happens.

You’re on your way my friend. :-)

Marcus

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Cheryl Pickett November 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I have a couple of thoughts to share on this one. First, I do believe having a voice as a writer/blogger is important. One of the reasons the advice is given to find your own voice is because sometimes new writers get started and they want to write like so and so that they admire, or (worse) someone who is successful. Learning from someone is one thing, but trying to purposely write in a similar style or tone, when that is not yours naturally, is a path to failure. As others have said, if you start out being authentic, you’re on the right track.

Now, once you “find” that voice, is that it? Maybe, maybe not. For some, their voice/style does not change even after writing for years and that can be a good thing. When you can read a piece of writing (blog, story or book) and there is no name attached to it initially but you have a pretty good idea as to who wrote it, that is a strong, distinguishable “voice”.

You can have a similar case on a blog very easily. If you le me and Rebecca Livermore guest post for example, I’m sure your readers would notice a difference. That would be because we each have our own voice. But again, this isn’t something that would be contrived. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing on a blog or speaking face to face, the differences should happen naturally and readers/listeners will sense the difference.

Overall, is voice important? Yes, I believe it is if you don’t wan to be just another “me too” writer on any given topic. Do you have to sweat over it so much that you don’t get the writing done that you should? No. Could it change over time? Sure. As with many other things in business, the key is finding the balance where you are who you are but you’re also connecting with the right people in the right ways.

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Marcus Sheridan November 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Cheryl, incredibly thoughtful comment. I really loved this. Seriously.

Part of this is semantics, but one thing is clear– the goal is not to be, talk, or write like someone else online. Absolutely.

But for me, there is a difference in “having” you own voice vs. “finding” your own voice.

In other words, “finding” seems to denote a destiny, and my main message with this post is that voice is not a matter of destiny.

Either way, I LOVED your points here and it was incredibly well said.

Thanks, as alsways…

Marcus

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Cheryl Pickett November 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Awww, thanks Marcus :-). Here’s one more thought about the “finding” part. What I think of when when it comes to finding your voice is that it’s that time when you write almost as effortlessly as you speak and there is a consistency about it. Everyone one of us has a “voice” when we simply talk, but for whatever reason, we don’t refer to it that way. The language we use, the pace, the tone, etc is all part of it. A lot of people struggle getting that part of them to the page or the screen. When it gets easier, almost second nature, is what I would call a “voice”. I also agree, often it’s right there, sometimes we just have to let it shine more than discovering it.

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Lisa Gerber November 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Interesting and timely since I just relaunched my blog – the gazillionth blog on digital marketing.
I agree about not wracking the brain to find your voice. Be yourself and that is your voice. If you try too hard, you are well, trying too hard. The problem is, some people have a really hard time just writing as they speak. It might seem common sense to a lot of us, but for some, they just don’t get it.
And on the other side of that coin…. back to me being the gazillionth blog on digital marketing – it’s important to find your unique audience, your unique angle, which I think is often confused with voice. …”finding your voice in the noise.”

So there’s a balance. :)

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:50 am

Very well said Lisa.

And I think it’s quite exciting you’re now on this new quest to help that talented “voice” of yours be shared ;-)

Smiles,

Marcus

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Krista Kotrla November 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm

“Finding your voice”… Marcus, are you talking about bloggers learning how to write like they talk and be authentic? –OR– are you talking about bloggers knowing their “shtick” and the focus of what they write about?

My guess is that established businesses need help and encouragement with the former when they first begin blogging. They know what their business is, who their customers are, what product/service they are selling… they just need a little bit of confidence making the transition to blogging and having a human online voice.

But then there are people who are blogging and trying to figure out how to turn it into a business or constantly evolving their business based on their blogging success… bloggers finding their “shtick”.

Now that I think through both of those versions of “finding your voice” I guess it doesn’t matter.

Either way, your point still rings true. Its about GROWTH.

It’s not about finding your online voice. It’s about the pursuit of becoming a more effective person (or business), period.

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John Verba November 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Is “schtick” “who we serve best and how we make it as easy as possible for that niche to find us (or, more importantly, our clients)”?

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Krista Kotrla November 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Good question. I might be interpreting “schtick” differently than how Marcus uses it.

I think of “schtick” as the focus of your business, knowing what you’re really good at doing/delivering/serving in an excellent way.

Marcus, feel free to take that definition in a completely different direction if I’m way off! It IS your blog :-)

BTW – Did I hear correctly that tomorrow is your BIRTHDAY??!

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:24 am

Hahaha, yes, the big 35 tomorrow for me m’lady ;-)

And yes, you and I define shtick the same– “your thing”–specialty area–etc.

Smiles,

Marcus

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:25 am

I define it as the thing that we focus on, what we feel we can be the best at, that’s the way I see it John. :)

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John Verba November 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Then “niche” would be the term marketers would normally use, Marcus. And I think that is the one crucial difference between a company that knows whom it serves best and why, and wants its best prospects to know that, and the companies that see themselves as commodity providers to the extent that they don’t really expect exceptional solutions from their small business, nor most others.

That’s all about niche marketing.

And the definition of “schtick” that I know sounds like the ones I found in Urban Dictionary. It’s what differentiates the acts of comedians: their gimmick. So it’s not usually anything substantial. It’s like Gallagher and his watermelons. And that meaning concerns me only because one thing that unsuccessful marketers do is take on a gimmick that’s different and memorable, but has nothing to do with their actual niche and unique selling propositions. That’s what happens when you laugh and laugh at a commercial and then can’t say who it was for. I’d say “schtick” is the thing that often keeps people from seeing “brand” or “sales promise.”

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:46 am

After all these comments Krista, I don’t know what I’m talking about. ;-)

No, but seriously, this was an article about growth, in every facet really, and my desire to help people realize there are no “destinations” in this journey, nor in their writing voice, or blogging style, or whatever.

Which, btw, you’re doing quite a good job at :-)

Marcus

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Jens P. Berget November 5, 2012 at 12:42 am

Hi Marcus,

This is a very intersting post and a topic I have thought about a lot, especially since so many people have been writing about it and saying that we need to have a unique voice as bloggers. I believe that what we need to be personal, and share our story, that’s what’s really important. We need to show people why they need to follow us and why we care. But, like you said, we need to keep growing and updating what we do. We switch design, we switch how often we publish (and when we publish). Sometimes we write long posts, and sometimes short. And we might switch how we use words. But as long as we are sharing our personal stories, I believe we are doing the right thing. A personal story might be that “online voice”, it might be all a matter of definition.

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:40 am

Yep, it’s certainly a matter of definition Jens, but I love your focus on the person here– and that is something you’ve done really, really well over the last few years, and I commend you for that.

Cheers my friend,

Marcus

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Anton Koekemoer November 5, 2012 at 3:07 am

Hi Marcus,

Yes – Especially with the ever changing trends and technology aspects of today. The world is constantly changing in almost all aspects , and one cannot afford to keep by a single view and opinion of topics. Having to find your voice every now and then is good to keep your eyes and mind open to an array of different opinions, from yourself and that of your targeted audience, As growth is hard to achieve when one is stuck on one topic / view / opinion.

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:36 am

Yep, and that’s exactly it Anton–and too many get stuck and as soon as that happens, the growth stops with it.

Thanks so much for stopping by my friend,

Marcus

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Michael Schechter November 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I rarely leave comments that say little more than amen, but amen!

I’ve always seen it way more as let your voice evolve rather than find it. It’s all about growth, you nailed it.

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:32 am

Amen it is then brother :-)

Hope you’re well my friend,

Marcus

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Jon Loomer November 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Always great stuff, Marcus. I think it’s semantics. To me, “finding my voice” is about speaking from the heart, being honest, having a brave and confident sense of style. That doesn’t mean it can’t evolve. It absolutely does.

I give the advice to “find your voice” when a writer/blogger clearly lacks the confidence to be themselves. Or they write without soul — coming off as a contrived PR machine.

Just my four cents (because I like to give more).

Jon

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Marcus Sheridan November 6, 2012 at 12:28 am

I don’t disagree Jon. I think where I could have done better is focusing on what I was really trying to say– and that’s the fact that we never reach a destination of our voice. Yes, we should work our hardest to push it, grow it, and develop it with every piece.

And btw, your stuff is worth a lot more than 4 cents buddy ;-)

Marcus

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Wade November 8, 2012 at 1:04 am

Yeah, I think that finding your voice happens in stages. For instance, you always read blog posts that tell you to “be yourself”. I can see where someone can change from keyword stuffing to writing for the reader could be a certain growth period.

Is this the road to finding your voice? Who knows? I don’t, I’m still lost in the ditch somewhere!

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Oh, don’t sell yourself short Wade! You’re finding, refining, and growing man. That’s really what this is all about brother!!

Marcus

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Ilana Rabinowitz November 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

Marcus,

I believe that when you find your voice only to realize you need to change, you didn’t actually find your true voice. When you find your true voice it’s something that is essentially true about you and it’s constant.

I am all for being flexible, changing as you feel yourself changing and realigning your actions and your goals as you try to get closer to what’s essentially true. Wise people pivot all the time. But what’s essentially true is very hard to find. The wisest people are at least always looking.

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm

And to add to that, what we feel is true today may appear completely false to us tomorrow ;-)

Great thoughts,

Marcus

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Mitch Mitchell November 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Ah good, back to the “disagreeing with Marcus” side of things. lol

You haven’t found your voice? YOU haven’t found your voice?!?!? Of course you’ve found your voice. Dude, if you hadn’t found your voice you wouldn’t have this great blog ranking; you wouldn’t have tons of comments like you do; you wouldn’t have this great business success; and you wouldn’t be going anywhere giving talks or presentations.

Sometimes people look too deep into these things without wanting to seem too proud to acknowledge the obvious, so I’m doing it for you. You have a consistent writing time and a consistent voice that people have gotten used to. You probably talk about things here and there that aren’t the norm, if you will, and people still come by to see what it is you have to say; heck, I do.

I’m totally countering what you’ve said in that at some point if people write long enough they all find their voice. They find a style of presentation that fits them; that’s their voice. It may be a lousy, stinky voice that no one wants to hear, but sometimes the truth hurts. Or it may be a voice that people love, or that makes people think, or that teaches people something specific. But the voice is there, it comes with practice, which is what doing a lot of writing does, and anyone who doesn’t feel they’ve found their voice is either trying to minimize what they do or is oblivious to the fact.

Yeah, I said it! Dude, own up to the voice; you’ve earned the Peggy Klaus award!

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hahahaha Mitch! Dude, I smiled the whole time I read this thing, I did man.

And I can’t say you’re “wrong” at all in your take on this. But keep in mind that my main point in writing this was to help people to stop getting “caught up” in this whole voice-finding mission that so many seem to be on, and that we should stop worrying about the “finding” part and just get out there and hustle.

You know Mitch, we do need to sit and break bread at some point my friend, I believe that would be a fun conversation :-)

Marcus

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Mitch Mitchell November 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Maybe one of these days Marcus; course, we have to at least find each other in the same state first and go from there. :-) And whereas I believe everyone eventually finds their true voice, trying to find it is counter productive because you never really know you’ve found it until you start to recognize your style.

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Davina K. Brewer November 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Was reading something the other day (as I’m still playing catch up from vacay, sorry I’m late), about how education and knowledge decays over time. We’re always learning, always growing, keep evolving. Or at least, I try to, and as I do so to does my writing, my blogging. Doesn’t mean I’ve lost my voice or never had it, nor does it mean am being unduly influenced by others. I have a post drafted about knowing my own mind; this has been a natural progression and one other better parts of the blogging journey – this on-going development of something that’s neither lost nor found, is what it is. FWIW.

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Marcus Sheridan November 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Yep, seems like we see this the same way D’. “Progression” seems to be the keyword :-)

To progress it is,

Marcus

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Robert Koenig November 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm

This truly is a great post and written very well. It is indeed hard to find your voice and it is difficult for some to realize that it is constantly changing and evolving. Hopefully those changes will only lend to something more authentic and beautiful.

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Mary November 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

I recently created a blog as a writing assignment for my last class at school. After 40 something posts, I have yet to find my real “voice.” I came across your site, Marcus, as I was researching online classes for social media and web marketing. As a middle-aged woman, returning to school was a challenge. However, I expect to graduate next month and plan to enter the workforce, with quite a diversified resume.

Although I consider myself internet savvy, I find I’m somewhat lost in the area of social media. I manage websites of 2 restaurants my DH is a partner in but I know there is so much more I could be doing to promote the businesses and maybe start my own.

I trust that following your posts and reading the subsequent comments will help point me in the right direction. Thank you.

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Ramin November 21, 2012 at 6:34 am

I guess it depends upon how you define “finding your voice”. If your “voice” is something that confines you and you have to try to “fit in” I’d say get rid of it.
But if “your voice” is something that allows you to put more of yourself into the content you share on your blog – not just the mere facts, the dry data, but that lets your personality shine through and make readers experience more of a “human interaction” instead of just “reading words”, I think it’s good to “use your voice”. :-)

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Marcus Sheridan November 21, 2012 at 9:01 am

Well said Ramin ;-)

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Helena November 24, 2012 at 6:28 am

Hi Marcus
Great read! “Finding one’s voice” may have different meanings to different people (as we see in the very diverse comments). For me it is about who am I, staying true to myself and how I’m evolving on life’s journey. So although my life underwent major changes and I see things and do things differently than a few years back I’m essentially still me. A way to explain this is the butterfly concept – going through all the cycles from egg, larva, pupa and then emerging as a new butterfly – the cycle is complete and ready to start a new cycle within my life journey. Btw just love Chris’s new newsletter….

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Marcus Sheridan November 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Butterfly concept is a GREAT way to describe the life and evolution of a blogger and writer Helena, well said!

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Anne Galivan December 9, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I think if you are not constantly growing in life, in some way, there is something wrong, i.e. you don’t get what life is supposed to be about. So in your work life, whether you’re a writer, salesperson, or whatever, change is not only inevitable, but desirable, if you are going to accomplish your goals. Those goals may include making money, making a difference in people’s lives or making a better widget. Either way, resting on your laurels or being content with your past effort is ultimately going to result in stagnation. You get left behind. And possibly become irrelevant. And who really wants to be irrelevant?

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Marcus Sheridan December 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

Well said Anne :-)

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