5 Ways to Find Your Authentic Voice

We all wish to write well. We wish to engage our readers, to influence them and inspire them as well. Through our writing we want to be heard and to connect.
And yet, sometimes we are unable to express ourselves from the core of our being. We may be writing right or writing well but we miss having a genuine engagement with our readers.

Here are a few ways to write in our unique, authentic voices.

1. Add another layer to your subject matter

Whether you are writing of food or of life choices, add a theme or an underlying motif to your writing. You may speak of your life, or your environment, your city or your culture. Any influences that have shaped you and made you what you are today are likely to resonate with your readers because this is what you know and are passionate about. 

2. Be rather than do

This may sound cryptic but when you focus too much on doing, on chasing goals, on planning or executing you lose touch with your innermost core. We are so caught up in rushing and meeting deadlines that we don’t have the time to relax into our being. We react rather than being proactive.

So, take the time to ‘be’, to nurture your self to come back to writing as the unique person that you are.

3. Loosen your emotions

There are so many emotions that we would rather not experience. Pain, anger, resentment, jealousy…we push them to the back of our conscious minds. The emotions fester and bring an unease that we carry with us. Confronting or even simply accepting these negative thoughts and feelings is the first step towards healing. The acceptance of our flawed selves opens us to the beauty we have in the people around us. 

4. Stay honest

At least to yourself. Be brutally honest about your aspirations, expectations and your values. Search within and know your code of ethics. Recognise your strengths and recognise the areas you wish you could improve. 

Authentic writing is more an expression of your true self than anything else. When you know clearly who you are and what moves your soul, you can go after those things in your life and in your writings. You can bring your unique perspective to the writing.

5. Follow it through

Know that creativity makes you express yourself and know that you are doing yourself a favour by following through what you do well. Keep at it and try to drown the noise of criticism…inner, more than anyone else’s.

5 Things that help me get back to Writing

More often than not, I find a slump in my writing life. Things happen, there are minor hiccups, there are major upheavals and writing takes a back seat. Or, nothing happens and a sense of ennui prevents me from taking up my pen. 

I know that I need to shake myself out of my reverie. Here are a few things that I do to get back to writing from the heart. 

1. Change the scene

I might go to a nearby town or a picnic or even a short walk, but a change of scene does wonders to the way I think. I might get back rejuvenated or inspired by a different set of feelings that the new place have evoked in me. 

2. Read more 

Reading leads to writing. Reading is one part of the creative process of writing. Reading others gives rise to newer threads of thought and the words and the tone of a writer can bring forth my own response. 

3. Write of things I absolutely love

There are things I would want to talk about all the time. Those are the things I can write about. There have been books that I could never have enough of. There have been emotions that have evoked a prompt response in my heart. A few things, some places, some foods, art and culture and our response to societal norms are things I use to get back to writing more. 

4. Explore the ways others write 

To know of ways writers write and to understand their rituals and imagine their feelings kicks forth the energy and helps the creative juices to flow. It is good to know that many others have the same struggles and also the same euphoria at a piece written well. 

5. Visualize the end result 

If there is a piece that is sitting unfinished and needs to be pursued, it helps if I think it through the end. For a fictional piece of work, running the story through my mind gets me all worked up to get back to writing. Looking at the structure of the piece in other kinds of writing and creating an outline works very well too. 

Please share the ways in which you make sure that you are writing. Are there any specific rituals that you have before and during writing? 

7 Musings on the Muse

I often feel that writing is something that takes me on a journey. I begin walking along the path, looking at the flowers, loving the scenery, the deep blue hills in the distance and the narrow winding path that goes up and down, taking me to places of it’s own accord. 

It is a lovely experience but the places I go to depend on the path. 

There are days when I wish I had more control over the process of writing and I had more courage to take the off shoots in the writing path. I wish I knew if I wanted to continue from there or to get back to where I was before. 

In other words, I want to be creative when I want to and not wait for inspiration to strike me. 

1. Finding My Muse 

    The first thing, of course, is that I cannot wait for my muse to find me. I just go and find her myself. I often wonder as to what she looks like. What must be her physical characteristics and what must be her benevolent qualities? And just because I do not know what she looks like, I should not despair in not knowing where to look for her. 

    Let us go down that path again. The writing path, the one with many delights. Which bush, which tree does she hide behind? Are there signs so that I may find her? I do not know, so I decide to take out my lute and lure her to me. 

    That might have sounded a little far fetched but in daily life this is what I need, bringing my muse to me. I must know what brings her to me and know what she likes so that she may stay. 

    2. When does the Muse Come 

    The question I have asked myself many times, when does the Muse come? Or more apt to ask, when would I call her? 

    For this, I needed to know when I write during the day and when I write best in a flow. 

    Sometimes, I feel that the time to write is hard to come by. I feel that I am always busy. So when do I find the time to write? I don’t. I make the time to write. 

    I have been writing on my blog for a couple of years now. Some days I do great, and some months I manage to churn out post after post. At times, on my less productive days and when things got busier and my schedule more crowded, I would struggle to write a 600-700 word blog post in five days. For professional writing or for doing the writing that pays, there are commitments and there are deadlines. I cannot just wait for time to be given to me. 

    To make sure that I wrote consistently, I started by identifying the time slots in the day when I could write. To my surprise, I found five such slots during my day. For two slots I could write endlessly or as much as I desired to and for the other three, I could write under a time constraint. That was like finding jewels. 
    The next few days, I focussed enough on those slots to start writing. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to write regularly and to notch up a good word count each day. Once I knew that I had those time slots, I guarded them zealously. I started each day envisioning the writing I would be doing in those slots. 

    In a few days I knew which times were best for me to write. I might have short time slots available for eg. During a commute, waiting for the school bus, waiting for the children outside their gym, the gap between two snack times when the children are lazy enough not to pester me or the short tv time that the children are allowed during the day. So I did have plenty of slots available but it was only by using all of them on a regular basis that I could find which ones worked best for me. 

    I understood that I liked the longer slots better when I could write more and I could get into a flow. The shorter slots were good to put in a few points to boost up the word count when that was required but I really loved the more relaxed time to write. I did not like to think that I had a few minutes left and I must write the next couple of hundred words in that. So both kinds of times were good but they served a different purpose and it helped to know which did what. 

    I also knew which time saw me at my productive best. I have always considered myself to be a morning person but somehow I wrote better in the nights. It had something to do with the infinite stretching of the night, well at least a few hours more than I would have gotten in the mornings. 

    3. How to make the Muse Stay 

    I made sure that I was focussed on my writing and there were minimum distractions. 

    It helped when the Internet was turned off. It also helped when I did not sit down to write after I had scanned my newsfeed, my messages and my mail. Doing all this just before my writing session was very distracting. 

    It helped to have the phone off the hook of course. I don’t like to listen to music when I write and I like to drink lots of water and sometimes I get up to pace about. 

    4. What keeps the Muse happy

    After a long time and some trial and error, I have realised that what makes me happy makes the muse happy too. She is intrinsically tied to me. She comes to me when I am relaxed, joyful, in the moment or when I have a deep need to express anything that has touched me deeply. 

    Looking at my writing and the times that I have been prolific gives me an idea of when my muse is happy and staying. The days I feel a deep satisfaction at having written well or expressed something completely are the days when I find my flow and my voice urges me and I can write on and on. These are the days when ideas come to me in dozens and I feel invincible where writing is concerned. 

    In writing, there are certain things that I can naturally express well. Some can write a memoir piece really well, musing and going down the memory lane. For others, informing and disseminating information comes easy. Some people are very rational and some write poetically. So, I write what I really want to write about. I write about the things I feel passionately for. I write so that it is expressed most beautifully and if it does not come out the way I would have liked to, I keep at it still. Because bad writing leads to good writing. The days I find my voice well are the days I write what I love to talk about. 

    This is not to say that I stick to one thing and never diversify into other ways of writing. It is only to say that I try to make everything my own before writing, in my mind so that the joy of ownership flows into the words. 

    5. How would the Muse stay comfortable 

    Which brings me to the next thing that is related to making the matter my own. It is deciding what I am going to write about when I sit down. I create an outline in my mind or on paper, if that helps better. Knowing what I am going to write about, what would be the structure of the piece, how the ideas are going to flow and how I want to tie up the diverse ideas or arguments as they arise. It is good to have an idea of how I would want to end it. Even then, sometimes new and unexpected things arise in the mind as I write and often I stumble upon a gem of an idea which closes the piece I am writing in an unexpected way. 

    So, I have an outline ready and also trust my instincts as I write. 

    6. Woo your Muse 

    The Muse is like a fountain of creativity and I can feed that creativity through writing. I also feed the muse in other ways by keeping the creative spark alive. That I usually do by indulging myself in other creative pursuits. 

    My favourite creative pursuit is to read. It is to fill my mind with impressions, thoughts, an amalgam of influences that come together to make my writing original. My inspiration comes from a cross section of arts and of raw passion that I encounter in the outpouring of the thoughts of the masters. 

    7. Passion and the Muse 

    I feel it is completely fine to lay bare my soul and write to take weight off my mind. It is completely fine to make writing a kind of a crutch on which to lean on, when going on seems impossible in life. I make it the place where I dump it all, the desires and the insecurities and the deepest fears. It is completely fine to dress these emotions a bit or a lot and to let them masquerade as characters with plenty of foibles. The thoughts are out there and they have taken wings. 

    Also, some days, I write for my own self. i don’t think of who I am writing for, who the target audience is going to be and how others are going to receive what I put out. I write so that it is my soul that is doing the talking. 

    Lastly, I have realized that it may take time for the writing to mature. Our perceptions change and our philosophies too and there is always something around the bend of our mind that surprises or charms our writing selves. 

    Disclaimer : The Muse is referred to as ‘she’. That is just an artistic view of her. For many others, eg, the writer, Stephen King, the Muse is ‘he’. 

    What are the ways you find your Muse and make her stay? Let us talk. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    11 Reasons I Write

    Here are the compelling reasons that make me write. 

    1. There are a lot of emotions out there that are the undercurrent of human existence. We don’t explore them enough collectively. Writing is a way to nod and say yes, I feel that way too.
    2. Writing helps me to sort out things for myself. Conflict, despair, misery… I have been able to keep them from overwhelming me in difficult times.
    3. I want to be among the blessed ones, the hallowed ones, the ones who can create beauty and heartbreak through words alone. I have had writers do that to me and I want to emulate them.
    4. Writing gives me a sense of purpose. It is not my bread and butter. Not does it provide tangible benefits. But it gives me direction and happiness and a feeling that life is worth living.
    5. Writing is creating. It may not produce a sculpture. It would not produce a movie. My writing might not even produce a book. There might be blog posts or there might be overflowing journals. But the writing could be a personal experience for some. It might not win accolades but it might resonate with some minds and hearts.
    6. Writing is my way of self expression. It is a heartbeat encapsulated in words. I do not have to keep the unsaid within. In attempting to say what is a swirling mass of emotions in my heart, I say it to the paper for catharsis.
    7. Writing helps me find my way out of life’s conundrums. It helps me find my voice in the doubts and lights up my way through words.
    8. Writing helps me to celebrate the ephemeral and the transient. There are moments and emotions that are fleeting and yet so powerful, just like truth.
    9. Writing brings out the worlds in me, the ones populated by unlikely people, leading extraordinarily interesting lives. Through setting forth improbable combinations in the lives of these imaginary people, there is magic and reality all intermingled to make me feel like a Creator.
    10. Writing helps me explore my own narratives and my influences so that I can understand my viewpoint objectively, once it has been written down. I can choose to evolve my perspective.
    11. Writing helps me face my mortality. It makes me confront the transience of life and the little time I have been left with, in order to write all that I want to.

    What are your reasons for writing? Do share. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    4 Surprising Tips for Self Editing your Writing 

    To write is human, to edit is divine 

    – Stephen King

    1. Create distance 

    Before tackling the difficult task of editing your work, create some distance first – between yourself and your important manuscript. Give it the gift of of time. Step away for a pre designated time from your work. It could be sleeping over your article or putting it aside for a week. For a longer piece of work, a few weeks might be required for you to look at the work with fresh eyes. 

    Metaphorically, create a distance by working on another project or piece of writing. Periodically, take a look at your resting manuscript. When you are surprised by what you have written, by the style or the pace or the narration, it is time to take out the editing pens. 

    2. Listen to your instincts 

    Once you start reading your work and are getting ready to cut out sentences and passages or to rewrite, focus on what you feel is right and how some things do not sound right. It could be a character that you have spent days crafting meticulously but she still does not sound authentic. Some scenes might seem forced and certain parts may feel too drawn out and boring. Make a note of whatever it is that you feel instinctively to be in need of improvement. 

    Technically, or going by the book, you might have done well in creating a conflict in the story and in resolving it towards the end. Yet, if it sounds false to your ears, it is time to take a second and a closer look. 

    3. Identify the Story 

    The story or the underlying premise of your article is the reason you are writing. For a piece of fiction, it is the story that is paramount. The themes, the recurring motifs, the setting, are all secondary to what you have set out to tell. Even if it is a slice of life or a stream of consciousness kind of work, pare it down to its bare bones, strip away the meat and find out if the barest version makes any sense. 

    Remember that the first draft is usually telling yourself the story and it is only for you, the writer and the creator. At the next part of editing and rewriting, the ‘other’ or the reader comes in. This is where you examine the story to see if there is coherence underneath the words and the imagery and the setting and the action. 

    4. Keep the Joy 

    It is easy to get disheartened when you come back to your supposed literary masterpiece after a while. It could look insipid or an uninspired piece of writing and there would be many many things that you can see are wrong. The basic plot may be disjointed, the storyline unoriginal. The characters may seem to be mere caricatures and the pace may be in jerks and starts. This is the time when you can easily get disheartened and abandon your work, thinking that no amount of rewriting can improve it. And yet, it is never a good idea to let go of any writing just because it does not seem imaginative enough or technically sound at that point of time. 

    Take a deep breath and think back of the joy that you experienced while creating the first draft. Think of the sense of potential and the plethora of possibilities that you felt while putting down on paper your wildest thoughts and deepest emotions. Will back the joy and you would get your sense of purpose back. 

    What things do you keep in mind when you are editing your own work? Please share your tips and tricks. 

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    4 Ways to Tell if You are a Writer 

    Image courtsey: The Odyssey Online

    Disclaimer: This post is aimed at and addressed to you, the reader. However, whenever I say ‘you’ for the reader, it can also be construed as ‘me’, the writer, because this is why the post is written: to reassure myself that I am doing alright. 
    It can take (us) writers a long time to be marginally readable. There are a few who are like Gods on Earth, the ones who seem to write without effort, sitting down at their gleaming writing desks each morning, hammering out hundreds of words with scarce a pause in between and a smile on their lips. These demi Gods are a paragon of clarity and eloquence and everything that they write is lapped up by the masses and the adulating crowds… anyway, you get my point.

    Then there are the mere mortals, the ordinary writers who find the writing hard, fearful and terrible. Most of what they write is through a convoluted process of agonising over the what and the how. They (Us) struggle to get the words right, the adverbs out of sight, weeding out the cliched similes and mataphors so that the masses of words are pruned into the semblance of a manicured beauty.

    To add to the agony of making the writing clear is the fear of not doing it well enough. There is the issue of acceptability, both of what is being written about and the language employed. Say in a memoir, how much about something can one write? What are the things that absolutely should not be left out so as to stay relatable, even though it may mean being estranged from your aunt, the one who tattled about the family secrets in the first place.

    Then, there is the problem of excrutiatingly bad ideas that somehow refuse to turn into the swans from the ugly ducklings of the first drafts. The bad first drafts just morph into bad second drafts and the rewriting seems to have little effect on the final version. Is it ever going to get any better, is what you (I) despair of. Months go by and then of course, years and the way we live our days, in desperation and trepidation seems to be the way we are going to live our lives. The mere mortals seem to lose all hopes of even sitting at the feet of the demi Gods.

    In between the struggle to be the writers we (there, the ‘we’ had to come out) want to be, spewing breathtaking beauty and truths of life that have hitherto been undiscovered or let us say, not been expressed in our inimitable ways and the awareness of the clock ticking away, perhaps of our creativity and the resilience to write, there lies the little window of hope and of getting there against all odds. 

    In spite of the doubts, here are a few ways to tell when you (yes, we) are a writer.

    1. Daydreaming

    You daydream a lot. Yes, me too. Daydreaming is built into your system and no matter what others think, it is a valid activity, to be indulged into on a daily basis. Dreaming is not a waste of time, you feel, but a way to be more creative and a way to delve into your intuitive powers. 

    You would always have stories running through your head. They may be populated by wild characters or ones that do unimaginably creative things. The stories are varicolored, sensory extravaganzas that stream fast through your mind even when your are deep in other things.

    You have imaginary conversations. The talk could be the people in your head or the people who are real and you rehearse the words and your reactions and their delight and how those conversations are then going to be the turning point in their lives.

    The day dreams are also about you, writing away to literary abandon. There could be no greater pursuit or joy than in writing.  

    2. The Written Word

    It is God. Period. Anything that is ink or black scratchings on white paper or any coloured scratchings even on yellowing parchment, it can be put on a pedestal. This applies equally to cheesy love letters and drab instructions for fixing a machine.

    As for you, in the presence of the written word, you are dumbstruck and you can be content in being a wallflower for the rest of your life but you want part of the glory of the word and you itch to write yourself. 

    It is not about being published or about the accolades or the hallowed doors that open to a person of immense talent. It is about the joy of relentless writing, only for the sake of it. 

    3. Writing on your mind

    Reading and Writing are always on your mind. Indulging in one makes you want to indulge in the other. They are the yin and the yang. You swing like a pendulum between the two. There are stories that you read, that you like and they lead your mind to narratives that run around in your head. There are snippets of conversations that you hold onto for  a years because you can weave an entire tapestry of emotions around them. 

    4. You hate your work

    You excel at self criticism. Your Inner Critic (IC) is alive and kicking. Everything that you write is robustly rejected as being  terrible in every aspect. Your IC can mostly be found perched on your shoulder as you practice your craft. For every few sentences, the IC can be seen shaking his (or her, depending on your own gender and on the complex you have, either Oedipus or Electra) head, his expression a mask of disdain. The words you employ are met with a snigger from the IC, the flow of ideas with a grimace. Nothing you write meets the approval of the IC, even when others like what you publish.

    A strong IC also means that you, the writer have a strong urge to improve your craft. 

    Writers are writers, because they write. Even when no one reads them. Even when the words are not precise and the sentences are convoluted. Even when the writers digress from the story they are telling to another thread that unravels inspite of themselves, sometimes creating themes and motifs and at other times, creating a mess.

    This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

    9 Quotes on Writing by Writers 

    1. There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.

    Haruki Murakami 

    2. Writing every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty … like a dry shell on the beach, waiting for the tide to come in again.

    Daphne du Maurier 

    3. All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.

    Leo Tolstoy 

    4. An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

    Charles Dickens 

    5. The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart. 

    Maya Angelou 

    6. So usually even if you like a sentence or a story or something, it won’t come out that way – it’ll come out years later, and in a different way, and you don’t really control that.

    Keren Ann 

    7. Writing down thoughts is like making marks in the wind. The wind in turn makes kites fly even as we cannot see the strings. 

    Nicoletta Baumeister 

    8. To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make. 

    Truman Capote 

    9. There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. 

    Raymond Chandler

    This listicle is part of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.