I just heard an interview with Tim Ferriss where he was talking about writing the 4-hour Workweek and how, in order to find his voice, he had to pretend he was writing an email to friends. Before that he started off writing in a pompous “Princetonian” way. When he realized that wasn’t right he swung to the other end of the spectrum with “slapstick three stooges.” Ferris threw away four full chapters that he wrote in an inauthentic voice.
Pretending I’m writing an email probably won’t do the trick for me — As a CEO I’ve already sent too many pompous email proclamations. I also have a number of really deep and spiritual electronic pen pals with whom I trade grand thoughts adorned with just a wee touch of holy.
But this trick where I interviewed myself the other day may have done it. Responding to questions instead of attempting the grand act of writing — did anyone else feel the earth shake just slightly? — allowed me to speak really freely. It was liberating.
“Honestly, it seemed pretty egotistical. It was a little off-putting,” said my girlfriend.
Ok. Maybe I can’t go through life interviewing myself. Or maybe I can? Maybe that’s how I personally have to start. Posing questions and answering them as if in conversation. But maybe from now on, after the self-interview is done, I can just strip out the Q’s and A’s and massage it till it takes on essay form (There it was again… did anyone feel that?)
At any rate, the more I write the more I think finding your voice is one of the most important things you can do. Writing isn’t easy but when you’ve found your voice writing gets as easy as it can be.
Finding your voice means less chance of ending up with something three hours, or three months, later that you throw away in frustration because, though accurate, though complete, though possibly even true, what has been written is so obviously not you.
Finally, writing in one’s own voice may even be enjoyable — a possibility I often forget.