The real (and only) way to find your writing style
The following is an excerpt from my copy course The Wordshops hitting the virtual airwaves later this month, along with my FREE un-boring blog writing challenge. (Both launching September 2017).
If you want to get your hands on the DIY Wordshop course, and/or apply to join my 4-week copywriting Wordshop incubator, click here to drop me a line and let me know. I’ll put you on the short list.
Back in 2015, when my copywriting course the Wordshops was naught but a wee seed of an idea, I spent a few months interviewing dozens of entrepreneurs about what they wanted to learn most.
Unsurprisingly, the things people wanted to master ran the gambit.
They wanted to figure out how to get comfortable selling. (Check!)
Or how to write the About page of their dreams. (Check aaand check!)
Or how to figure out what their brand voice really is. (I got you!)
Or pin down how to pen a Home or Sales page that felt clear, but also oh-so-sexily presented them as an expert. (Heck yeah I have your back!)
Or they just needed help getting off their butts so they could start writing already. (Mm-hm, I can do that too.)
However, there was one request that was practically universal:
Interviewees requested, sometimes bluntly, sometimes shyly:
“I feel like your writing has so much style. I want to figure out how to write the way you do… for myself.”
And honestly? It gave me pause.
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. I scribbled down my first fantasy novel in second grade. I spent most of my teen years scrawling records of my days and crushes and “struggles” into journals and diaries every night, and writing fanfiction instead of finishing my Algebra homework.
I’ve been using (read: abusing, with too many ALL CAPS STATEMENTS and photos of my cat) social media since I was a teenager. Then when I began writing copy in 2011, I averaged roughly 50 pages of content week in, week out.
There was never a formula I tried, or a book I read about the subject that offered me any particular kind of “My style is XYZ!” clarity. And I didn’t look for one.
Overall, I focused on writing the way I spoke, and with time my “vibe” and sense of pacing and pros came to fruition.
Tl;dr, I felt like I wrote so much, my style had kind of created itself.
Here’s where it gets tricky though:
Unfortunately, “Just keep writing for years and you’ll figure it out” wasn’t a good response to my hopeful students.
So I spent a few months looking closely at my writing process to figure out why I made the creative choices I made.
And the closer I looked, the clearer my path to style became:
- My subconscious mind is soaking in the inspiration I see day in, day out. The books and plays I love, the music, the art, the TV shows, movies, even the commercials I genuinely pay attention to influence me in small ways. (That’s why I include a whole section about “Reverse engineering what inspires you” in the first module of my course.)
- My editing process has become more about trimming the fat off ideas than actually reviewing for style and grammar, although I still do plenty of grammar/spell checking, with help from my brilliant editor Autumn Tompkins, a.k.a. The Grumpy Grammarian.
- I prioritize pacing over clever wordplay. If my brain stumbles over a sentence, or feels “off” reading something, chances are it will feel the same for my audience. So if an “it-sounded-good-in-my-head” idea doesn’t work? I don’t play precious. I ditch it immediately.
- I strike “SAT words” from my writing vocabulary. I don’t need people running to the dictionary to make myself feel smarter. Complex ideas delivered in concise, accessible language are infinitely more powerful anyway.
- I create my best work when I suspend judgment. If something makes me laugh, or I have an idea that feels quirky, but I sense it would land with my audience? I keep it in, hold my breath, and hit “publish” anyway — even when I’m not 100% confident.
- I’ve stopped trying to be for everyone. I talk about this a fair amount, but it bears repeating: You can’t find your writing style if you’re trying to play it safe, or squeeze into a tiny box you think you’re supposed to sit in. Dish your real talk. Swear if you want to. Be your weirdest, most wonderful, most whimsical self. That’s what people need — not another robot cranking out the same concepts day in, day out.
- Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. The more I write, the clearer my style becomes.
However! Just because it took me a decade to get to a clear style point doesn’t mean you have to follow the same timeline.
Your style is engrained in you already, whether you know it now or not.
The trick is to keep paying attention, and keep writing and creating, so your evolution can be allowed to happen.
What do you love to talk and share about? What lights you up to discuss or debate? What kind of wordplay, and pacing, and pop culture references do you dig most? How do you want to be understood?
And before you tell me “But Hillary! Aren’t I supposed to be writing what my audience wants, instead of what I want?”
Yes… and no.
While you should always focus on delivering value, YOU are a brand! Your audience wants you, baby — the fully realized, loud, proud, undeniable and clear-like-a-tide-pool-on-a-summer-afternoon experience of YOU and your brain and brilliance and braun.
The more pages you create and share, the more you blog and post on social media and talk truth about the work you do, for the people you do it for?
The more visible YOU, as a creator, an expert, and an authority become.
The more undeniable your style will be.
And the more right people will find you — and fall head over heels with every single thing you do.
It’s the best (and only) way there ever was.
Don’t worry: I have way more to teach you about this inside The Wordshops, including how to master your pacing and flow, how to write with flair and comedy, and more.
The Wordshops also dive into sales, content structure strategy, voice, and more, so you can craft the creative, converting About, Home, or Sales page of your dreams.
Click here to get on the list for the LIVE or DIY version of the course — and I’ll see you soon. ❤