Perhaps this is not so much a mistake as an adjustment that needs to be made as you begin the process of establishing your blog identity.
Many bloggers start out by applying a frame to how they think about their blog. This frame affects your writing style, causing you to feel the need to project a certain image with your words. This is a false image placed on top of who you really are, often applied because you believe it necessary to ensure you come across as professional. You want to make the “right” impression.
Chances are you are doing this right now when you write content to your blog without even realizing it.
Most of us, as we go through the schooling system, and then secondary education and on into employment, are instructed how to write. As an academic you should write with a certain style, reference your ideas and conform to set standards. Journalists also have their own set of standards, as do professionals in all kinds of industries from doctors to accountants.
Drop Your Preconceptions: Be Yourself
Bloggers aren’t taught how to write. The most common piece of advice we are given is to “use your own voice” when you publish content. This is good advice, but it’s not easy to implement and takes practice to master.
The challenge is not learning how to write in a certain style as a blogger, rather it’s to drop any preconditioning you’ve adopted that impacts how you write.
Bloggers rarely begin as professional writers. We’re just every day people who decide to share our ideas about a certain subject. As a result, when you start your blog, it’s quite possibly the first time you’ve ever written for a public forum.
The idea that people will read your words immediately causes you to put up a shield, a conditioning over your writing, causing you to self-censor and even alter how you express yourself.
Selective self-censoring is necessary because your blog should have focus and stay on topic, although you can be very liberal with how much personal information you share. It’s up to you of course how much you share, but in my experience, most people are overly concerned with what they talk about on their blog because they are driven by fear. Fear of what people will say, what they can do to you if they know certain things about you and a fear of standing up and saying what you think, are major roadblocks to authentic expression.
Once you drop the preconditioning you will find it much easier to write. When you do not filter what you say through a false image, finding flow-state and creating content that people love becomes fluid. Your expression is clear because you’re writing in your true voice.
How To Drop False Frames
The challenge here is identifying the frames you’ve applied to your writing. Your natural writing style is going to change, especially early on when you first begin blogging. Practice does make a difference, so the more you write, the easier it becomes and you will start to gain a better feel for who you are as a writer.
In my case I began writing my blog using what I considered my true voice, taking what was in my head and putting it into words. This has served me well for a long time, and largely my writing style hasn’t changed over the years.
I’ve been told on many occasions that people enjoy reading this blog because it’s as if I’m there talking to them in person like a casual conversation. This in many ways is my strength, my ability to clearly express myself based on what I am really thinking, however that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to adjust how I write over the years.
I’ve definitely noticed, especially as my audience has grown, that my writing and topic choices have changed. Knowing that several thousand people read your words is at times daunting. It’s a big responsibility to have influence, and yet at the same time you want to be true to who you are.
Even when your audience is small at the start of blogging, I recommend you ask yourself if you are writing within a frame. While it’s not always appropriate to write how you speak, as a general rule of thumb, if your writing is very divergent from how you speak, then you’re likely off the mark and over-conditioning yourself to fit some kind of preconceived notion about what is acceptable.
Authentic blogging works because people come to like you for your ideas, your opinion and how you express these things through your writing. If you’re not being authentic, people will know and you will know because building a repeat audience will be difficult.
While you practice being yourself with your writing, don’t forget the rules of good blog content. If you need a reminder, go read over my article on Pillar Content.
Controversy, teaching people how to do things, presenting strong opinions, offering thought-leadership in your industry – all of these formats will always be good structures for quality blog content, but it’s your ability to use your authentic voice while using these formats that matters.
I can’t teach you how to be yourself, but I can explain some triggers I’ve applied to my writing. These are filters and techniques I use that I believe improve the quality of my content. Not all of this is about my style, but even if it’s just basic grammar changes, it can help.
- Talk to one person when you write. When I started blogging I imagined a crowd of people I was writing to (all my subscribers). Today I write to just one person – you.
- Write in active voice. I still have to edit my content for this all the time. I tend to default to “have” and “will be”, and other passive voice phrases, rather than present tense like, “I am” and “are”.
- Tell stories. My entire blog is based on this principle. I tell stories from my life, from other people’s lives and use stories as triggers for ideas.
- Read over your writing and if anything sounds funny to you, change it. Your intuition is a great barometer for what is working and what is not. I find it very helpful to read my writing at different times of the day, as how I feel can dramatically impact how I write.
- Don’t change too much. Editing is good, perpetual fussing over every phrase is not.
- Drop the perfectionist hat. I publish mistakes all the time, yet people still read my words. Enough said.
- Don’t try to cover too many ideas in one article. I tend to ignore this advice and as a result write long articles, but that doesn’t suit most people. In general if your content focuses on one main point, which you can realistically explain in 1,000 words or less, you’re doing great.
What I’m teaching here is not a science, it’s an art, hence even giving you a list of dot points to follow and some ideas that might help you self-analyze your writing, is not enough. This is something that is unique to you, that I can’t teach. You have to feel your way to what works and you will know it when it does. Simply put, it will be more fun to write once you find your true voice.
Enjoy your writing.
Authentic Communicator (most of the time)
P.S. I just received this email from one of my Blog Mastermind members and I felt it appropriate to include along with this article as it reinforces the idea of finding your true voice and not holding anything back for fear of judgment.
I have just received Lesson 27 so my lessons are complete. I haven’t finished them all but this doesn’t matter. I have much to look forward to.
When I began I was not happy with the niche I had chosen and looked around for other easier niches. Played around so to speak because if the truth be known I did not want to ‘stand up and be counted’. I much prefer being the quiet achiever. That means I can do what I want and nobody will challenge me.
However to cut a long story short I too am now willing to share myself and my experience with others. Inspired by you and the way you share yourself.
As a result my blog is now on page one of a few search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing and AOL for the keyword – phonics for kids – www.phonicsforkids.net.
My attitude changed and I really got stuck into providing information. As I did this my resolve to share grew. I am no longer reluctant to talk about what I do. My business is now working. Stage 2 is about to begin.
So I would like to say thank you for your superb lessons and presentation. The personal growth for me has been amazing and I haven’t begun to master blogging yet. Also thank you for the customer service I received as well.
Kindest regards and best wishes,