How to write and sound like yourself? The writing process veers wildly between caffeinated euphoria and self-loathing. At first, the words are flowing. You’re thinking that maybe it was you who was meant to write The Next Great American Novel. Then, you hit “enter” and you’re completely stuck. One YouTube home workout, three reheated cups of coffee, and five Selling Sunset episodes later, you have no choice but to sit down and start typing. Writing is never painless, but it doesn’t always have to be a trudge. What you want to say is often right in front of you; it’s just difficult to not overthink it. Below, some tips to hone your writing voice and make the process less tedious—maybe even fun.
1. Write Like You’re Talking To a Friend
The most magnetic writers are those who keep their word choice simple and their descriptions vivid. Instead of words that sound too academic or florid, think of how you would tell a story to a friend. You’d want to keep them entertained, maybe make them laugh, and you’d want the story to sound like you. Man Repeller and The Cut are publications that excel at this sort of conversational, evocative writing.
2. When It Applies, Start With a Personal Anecdote
Draw your reader in with a story to help them connect with the topic. Say you’re writing an etiquette post on dealing with in-laws who want to turn a destination wedding into a full-on family vacation. If you have a funny anecdote about the subject, use it to engage your readers in the intro before getting into the more informative part of the piece.
3. Get Up and Do Something Else
The ironic trap of attempting to sound like yourself is that the more you try, the more robotic writing can sound. All of a sudden, it’s late afternoon and you’re staring at the first sentence thinking, “Have I ever…had anything to say?” This is when you get up, walk away, and do something else.
Come back a few hours later, or the next day, and look at it again. You may have to do this three or four times, even. That’s OK! Each time, you’ll arrive at that Google doc with new inspiration.
4. Read It Out Loud
This really is the magic ingredient to good writing. Reading what you’ve written out loud helps clarify tone, grammar, phrasing, everything. It’ll let you know if your sentences are too long or if something you wrote isn’t all that interesting.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Break Some Rules
Think of how you speak in conversation. Are you more mellow-toned, unafraid to take a few beats to formulate your thoughts? Or are you more excitable, with a flair for dramatic turns of phrases? Don’t be afraid to let that direct your writing tone, even if that means breaking a few grammar rules. If you’re an energetic person, pepper in a few exclamation points here and there.
Your blog post doesn’t need to read like a college lit essay. The occasional broken sentence to emphasize a point or a one-sentence paragraph might not be grammatically correct, but these flourishes keep our attention.
6. If You’re Stuck, Try Writing…Anything
If you sit down to write something and you find yourself stuck, just start writing about whatever’s on your mind. This sort of stream-of-consciousness writing clears your head, helps you work out some thoughts on paper, and it can unkink your mind. Instead of getting even more distracted by scrolling through your Instagram feed, free writing can serve as a warm-up before the main event.