By: Marilyn L. Davis
“I often get asked the question, ‘If you had to compare your writing to an author who would it be?’ My answer is always the same; the author I compare myself to is me. Every writer has a unique style relevant to only themselves. I am nothing like other authors; some aspects of my writing may have similarities to another, but in the end, each and every one of us is different.” ― Ashley Tia Long
Similar Reflective Perspective-Personal Voice
Ashley Tia Long’s quote epitomizes an individual secure in her voice. Starting her novel at age 8 and finally finishing it when she was a young adult demonstrate the care with which many authors hone their voice.
I think it is a testament to voice as a quality within each writer that her editor did not have her change many of the passages that she originally wrote at age eight.
What she was able to do though, was expanded and better phrase the concepts transforming them into writing as an adult. She is also a reflective author utilizing many of the qualities that I find interesting such as rhetorical questions, alternative solutions and the inclusion of thoughts and feelings prompting the reader to think. Since I have only been writing online for about four years, my writing is undergoing transformations as well.
So, what is becoming a natural way for me to write? Writing is now a reflection of the way I offer guidance and direction to my recovery clients.
When We Understand our Readers, Our Voice Comes Naturally
As a substance abuse counselor, I spent years learning reflective listening. It is different from active listening in that we do not simply paraphrase a client’s statement, but reword it and add to it to convey our understanding and to move the dialogue forward.
I can just as easily substitute client for reader to accomplish my writing goals in a similar manner to my counseling goals.
In the same reflective style that I use in counseling, I am learning to write in a similar voice – I read the words aloud and listen to them asking:
- Are there subtle and unstated thoughts and emotions under the information?
- Are those thoughts or emotions important to the piece?
- Will the readers understand the choice of language?
- Do I need to elaborate and add links for the concept?
- Are there nuances in the choice of words that might need clarification?
Why I Chose Reflective Writing: The Four R’s
Reflective writing allows me to merge Reporting, Relating, Reasoning and Reconstructing into a generous article. Reflective writing allows me to use my voice in my articles whether it is about addiction, organization, personal loss or writing. When I incorporate the four R’s to create a piece, I have the freedom to write more than just the facts.
I write much like I have conversations with people. Reflective writing creates a dialogue with readers and they can read the thoughts, emotions and opinions through our distinctive voice; the language, tone, movement through the piece, and phrasing.
So, how do you find your voice and incorporate it into your writing? Think about how you talk with people – what is your conversational style?
My conversations tend to be reflective – I ask questions to gain insight into the person or the topic of conversation. Therefore, questions often show up in my writing. I use them to:
- Develop dialogue and a relationship with my reader
- Create an opportunity for me to learn when readers answer my questions
- Elicit responses in comments, feedback or email
- Prompt my readers to think of an authentic answer for them
- Write a rhetorical question for an alternative perspective
Target Readers with Your Voice
What voice is appropriate for your readers? On my other blog, From Addict 2 Advocate, I’m educating people about addiction and recovery. I recently celebrated 28 years in recovery and ran a women’s recovery home for more than 20 years. Yes, I know something about recovery, however, I have to be careful that I’m not writing slang-laden blogs. Written in this voice, it might just reinforce the badass, hood, druggie culture that some readers fear and loathe.
However, I may use those terms when conducting a group if those participating in the group would relate better to that jargon.
Knowing our audiences – whether reader or group participant is critical.
Remember that our well-defined, recognizable voice is an integral part of the reason that people read our articles as opposed to someone else writing about the same subject. This identifiable choice of language, phrasing and tone mean that someone will probably start saying:
“I know that writing.”
“I like that writing style.”
“I feel a connection to that writing.”
“I will read that writer again.”
Those types of comments mean that your readers do not compare you to someone else, and in the world of words, that is often a good thing.
Take 20 minutes and write down your target readers. Then break your readers up by the categories in which you write. Once you have your target readers by categories, reflect on the language, phrasing, tone and movement that are likely to attract readers and yet be authentic for you.
For myself, I will continue writing in a reflective way and honing my voice; this makes sense to me as a person and as a writer.
My personal combination of language, phrasing, tone and mood make it my work. I hope someday that someone reads one of my articles and says, “Marilyn, I knew you wrote that, it is you.”