I make my living writing in advertising, which means I write in other people's voices. I'm good at what I do. In fact, I might be so good at what I do, I don't even know how to write in my own voice anymore.
Part of it has to do with laziness. After 8+ hours of churning out headlines and body copy every day, the last thing I want to do is stare at a blank page and blinking cursor when I'm home. Not when I can indulge in the warm glow of Netflix and take out.
Another reason is vulnerability. When writing for a brand, there are always guidelines and rules and creative directors and strategists and account people and clients and lawyers to tell me to write this and not that. It's restrictive and annoying, but it's safe. It protects me. Or does it?
Because now I'm finding that the way I write professionally is now affecting my ability to write personally. Ideas for an essay or a short story gets drowned out by thoughts of self-doubt. Like, is what I'm writing [ICK] "on brand" for me? What does my brand even look like [GROANS IN SELF-LOATHING]? Will it get liked/upvoted/retweeted/etc? Is it too controversial? Will this attract a lot of readers? This goes on and on until I start to spiral and then I have to lie down in front of a West Wing marathon to feel better. Which ultimately means I don't get any writing done. Nothing — just silence.
To create is to be human and I'm doing a shit job at both. Saying what's on my mind is human. Thinking constructively. Having an opinion. Challenging those opinions. Changing your mind. Making mistakes — that's the most human thing of all. And yet I'm so scared to say the wrong thing and losing likability points, that I prevent myself from saying anything at all. I make myself silent. I deny myself from being human.
I don't usually do resolutions, but being unpredictable is a pretty human trait, so what the hey! This year, I'm going to work on finding my voice by writing more. Whether it's grocery lists, notes to self, scribbles, whatever — I'm going to stop finding excuses to avoid it. It's not going to be perfect. What works for others won't always work for me and I'll definitely fail a lot, but I'm going to keep trying and failing and trying again so that maybe one day, I'll get pretty close to finding my voice again.
The Danger of Silence "We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't." Slam poet and teacher Clint Smith gave a TED talk about how finding your own voice is courageous and important in speaking up against ignorance and injustice. I found this video incredibly inspiring.
Originally published on January 17, 2017 on Alwaysatodds.com