By: Olga Mecking
“I’m afraid to submit to other websites. I don’t want to lose my voice”- a friend told me recently.
Many writers think that they’re a certain kind of writer. They say of themselves: “I’m a humor writer” or “I’m not comfortable writing like this. I’m more like that”.
Why this fear? It’s all about identity. We like to see ourselves as a certain type of person: introverted or extroverted. Quiet or outgoing. Funny or melancholic. And in many ways it’s true. I, for example, identify as an introvert. It’s extremely important to me to feel comfortable in my own skin. At the same time, when I push myself out of my comfort zone, I learn and grow.
What kind of singer are you?
Some writers are like opera singers: they have a niche that they excel in, and they don’t even try to sing anything else: they understand themselves fully and completely as, let’s say, dramatic sopranos.
Others, like Tarja Turunen, had no such luck. So instead of trying to make it in opera, she formed the band Nightwish, which is basically a heavy metal band. What you hear in Nightwish songs is still Tarja’s operatic voice, but her musical style is totally different!
Some musicians love to try out different styles. For example, Christina Aguilera started as a pop star, singing things like “Genie in the Bottle” and “What a Girl Wants”. But then she brought out “Back to Basic” with “Candy Man” and “Car Wash” and showed that she is so much more than just a pretty face. Her latest album, “Bionic” is something else entirely- an experiment of sorts.
“This is a fierce, strong, sexy, feel-good album, and I think the various collaborations represent Christina flexing her artistic muscles,” senior VP of marketing and artist development Scott Seviour adds. “But ultimately what they did was to help bring out the different sides of her”; which is what happens when you try and write for outlets that are totally different regarding style, length, topic and tone.
Why I write in various styles
As a writer, I love to learn. Therefore, I submit my writing to different sites. It’s very exhilarating to figure out what kind of post to write for this particular outlet. I usually ask myself this question: “Can I do this?” It’s a little bit like a game.
On my own blog, I usually keep to writing about a few core things: living and patenting abroad, travelling, and food. But I wrote about general parenting topics for Babble. I wrote candid posts for BLUNTmoms and Scary Mommy. I wrote about my periods for Role Reboot. I wrote long, thoughtful posts in which I quoted experts and I wrote short, shareable listicles with viral potential. And the best thing is that, while each of these posts is so different, they’re all mine.
You’re not just one thing
In her TEDtalk, Emilie Wapnick talks about her difficulties choosing just one passion or interest. She calls people like herself pluripotentialites: ones who can do many things. However, society tells us to have just one “passion” that you devote your whole life to.
The same way writers are told to “stay within their niche” and are often hired because they represent a certain writing style (humor writer) or topic (mommy blogger). However, if you look more closely, these humor writers are often able to write beautifully crafted, thoughtful essays that tug on your heartstrings.
Personally, I get bored writing about one topic for too long. That’s one of the reasons why I started to branch out to write for other websites: so that I could learn how to write for different audiences.
Who are we?
In his podcast the Portfolio Life, Jeff Goins says, “You are not just what you do. You were made for more than just one thing. Your life is a portfolio of activities, all of which make you who you are.”
There is this idea that we have a certain core identity or a personality that can never change and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are afraid of “wearing masks” or “playing someone we’re not.”
But the truth is that identity is fluid and always changing.
And we do play many roles in our lives: we’re mothers and fathers, employees and employers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers. We behave differently with family than we do with our colleagues. Especially the modern life, it requires us to play many roles and wear many hats.
Then why do we insist on being one thing when we can be so much more?
We’re afraid we’re going to lose our voice- and with it, our identity.
Expand your voice range
There is no such thing as your one true voice. What you have, however, is a voice range you feel comfortable with. Some people seem to have naturally high or low voices, just like they can feel most comfortable with a certain writing style.
Some bloggers hate writing advertorials (sponsored posts) for fear of selling out and they hate listicles because they consider it “click bait,” but rest assured that you can write both and be proud of every post you write.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t expand your voice range. Singers practice scales. You, as a writer, can practice expanding your writing repertoire by many new styles, topics, stories and outlets.
I already notice that all the styles I’m practicing blend to create something totally new. Writing for BLUNTmoms taught me to be brave and get out of my comfort zone. For my article for Wall Street Journal, I had to learn how to do research and seamlessly weave it into a story. The thrill I get each time I get published at a new site gives me the confidence to expand my writing voice and makes me a better writer.
Writing for various sites will not make you lose your voice: it will allow you to showcase all sides of your personality.
About Olga Mecking
Olga Mecking is a writer and translator living in the Netherlands. Her blog, The European Mama, is all about travelling, parenting and cooking. Her writing has also been published on many other websites, including The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Wall Street Journal Expat, and Babble, among others.
When not writing or thinking about writing, Olga can be found reading books, drinking tea and reading some more.