Blogging and voice

Communication | ArtPrize 2010
Communication | ArtPrize 2010 (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

I wonder how many of us take a conscious decision to become the people we are and how many of us just come to be as we wander through life.

Each human being is already complex. Put one human being in touch with another and you have an even more complex set of possibilities of interaction. When you think about it, only part of that interaction is communication, only part of communication writing, only part of writing blogging and just a small part of that voice.

Yet, voice is as important to a blog as stickiness is to, well, sticky rice if you’re going to eat it with chopsticks. The person eating has to be dexterous and educated in the culture of holding chopsticks right but you also don’t want to use the wrong rice so your message-grains fall through.

When we talk of ideas that sound rather serious, such as voice, I never know what they mean. I am never sure how they can be exactly differentiated from other concepts such as style andย toneย except that I know the connotations differ somewhat.

Voice, for me, has most to do with the personality of the writer as it comes across to the reader, an aspect of writing which is especially important in blogging because you get to know a blogger over a long period of time. A blogger is more like the boy/ girl next door that you feel like you know, neither a celebrity like an established writer nor a sensation who you wouldn’t expect to interact with you.

But this idea of the blogger-as-regular-person, which initially seems quite liberating because it makes the work relatively pressure-free (each post does not have to be perfect), can become a cage in itself because of voice.

Do we need to stick to a consistent voice in all our posts? In real life, we adults are somewhat consistent in our personalities, but we don’t interact the same way with everybody. We evolve over time and we allow others to change us. Sometimes, life events influence us drastically.

Can that happen to a blog? Can we experiment with different voices? Can we change? Or is it that we have to stick to the same voice in the same blog and create a new one if that voice sticks in our throats and stifles us after being the same person over and over again for weeks and months?

It seems to me that anything that does not change with time has to be complete, like a book, or dead. And a blog as a genre is more alive to me than many other forms because it keeps letting you know it is alive a few times a week. But does it have to keep reminding people that it exists by hollering outside people’s doors in exactly the same voice every time it speaks?

To me, it is the underlying character that defines a person. It is the same thing that draws me to a blog. Sure, consistency of voice, style and tone is soothing because it does not jar with expectation at the end of a tired day. But if I know that this blogger is dependable and serious about his work (even if that means I can rely on him to be seriously nonsensical if he is writing nonsense verse) and that he will not waste my time with filler posts with catchy titles, I’ll visit him. I’ll not expect him to be nonsensical everyday. He can be tearful on days he is sad or artistic when he is in the mood.

But I shall not hold him to his voice.

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35 thoughts on “Blogging and voice”

  1. One of the things I have found liberating about blogging daily this year is that I no longer have time to worry about my voice too much. My posts aren’t as sharp as they were in the beginning, when I sweated over every post for days and posted once a fortnight. I suppose my voice, if there is a consistent one, is mostly me being chatty with friends. I do feel a certain tone in my head when I write blog posts (I’m usually walking the dog, so they have that rhythm) but it’s not something I do consciously.

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  2. I love this post. Thank you. I have wondered about this often…voice can be tricky – b/c we are not clean and neat. I agree…we are not always in the same mood and frame of mind when we write, and I think it’s OK for our writing to reflect that. And, I think you just gave me permission to do that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

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  3. I think voice can change based on topic. I don’t think all of my posts have the same voice, especially with my fiction posts. The style is always my own, but how go about conveying ideas is different. Voice is hard for me pin down and I don’t spend too much time analyzing it because I’m afraid if I focus on it too much, I’ll lose the words altogether.

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  4. What a thoughtful piece. It is an evolving process. I have been working on my voice constantly since I started, and it has changed quite a bit. Now, of course I actually think of real people when I write. These folks have so many different faces, though, I still have many sides to my blog as some posts speak to some, and some to others. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some stay away for awhile, and come back like old friends. Some I see every day rain or shine. I love blogging. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I was just thinking about analogies before I read your winner:
    “…voice is as important to a blog as stickiness is to, well, sticky rice if youโ€™re going to eat it with chopsticks.”

    and then:
    “But I shall not hold him to his voice.”

    Don’t worry, we won’t hold Bottledworder to hers.
    Keep experimenting! Your followers will keep reading.

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  6. I think it is good to experiment with different voices; it’s like with singers, even if it’s a singer you like, if they only ever sang the same song, in the same key, you would get bored pretty quickly. I have different voices that I use when I write, I don’t do it intentionally; I don’t consciously decide when I sit down to write–to write in a different voice.

    It just happens.

    Depending on what time of day it is, my writing voice can change; I write in a different voice when I am tired, at 1 am, than when I am first starting my day. It also depends on where I am writing; my posts on FB are written with a different voice than the ones here on WordPress, and on my other social media sites, I use other voices; because I am writing to a different audience on each of these sites.

    Also, I think a writer’s voice changes over time, as they learn and grow.

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  7. Fascinating piece… I suppose I think of voice as the essential thread of a person’s character… you can change the topic. even the tone, but can you change the voice without changing the person?

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  8. I read an inspirational book, then read an erotic romance by the same author. Though the genres are Very different, her voice remained true all the way through…which in the end bothered me a bit.

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      1. I’m not sure how to describe the voice- fresh, charming? Having read the inspirational first, I had the voice in my head. The erotica (a short story in an anthology) made me wince in a few places. The story was nice. The craft was solid, but when I read an entire erotica novel…it just didn’t work for me.

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  9. This quote brought to mind a quote from J.D. Salinger —

    โ€œWhat really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.โ€

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    1. I can relate to that quote; I read a good book last year, “The Princess” by Jean Sasson. I was able to follow her on Twitter, and surprisingly she followed me back, but I haven’t had any conversations with her.

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  10. I don’t give a thought to voice outside of fiction. When I blog, it’s little ol’ me making comments on things. I try to be consistent with the topics I blog about and try not to veer too far into divisive territory that could alienate my audience, but I never let those concerns override my need to make a hopefully interesting post. (And as someone who is keen on satire, I don’t let those types of concerns dictate what I write.) Seems to me, the moment you are disingenuous I think is the moment people write you off and find someone else to virtually hang out with. Of course, all this might explain why I’m not at all that popular in the blogosphere ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. I try various things on my blog, writing what I feel like writing about but hopefully, my voice is clear. I don’t mind if it changes over time, but I dont try to change it to match the subject. I think that may be reflected in the jagged line of likes, views, comments, etc. but I don’t really care about that either. I think our choice is to write to be read, or to write what we feel and hope others like it. BTW, I also follow Seth Godin, and I think this is the link you’re looking for: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/07/perhaps-you-could-just-make-something-awesome-instead.html

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  12. Even if you try to change voice, I think the die-hard fans will still recognize the person behind it and the new intentions. I find topics to be another big issue. Because I basically hyperbolize my complaints about things, I fear that I might distance certain readers if I complain about something they feel strongly about.

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  13. I agree with you that the blogosphere is a living, growing entity — and it’s totally ok for a blogger to have slightly different voices from post to post. However, I prefer that a blog have a feeling or theme that holds it together; it seems more purposeful that way.

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  14. Love this post! I have been pondering the concept of voice for many weeks now. I have been reading a book – When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations On Voice by Terry Tempest Williams – in an attempt to understand as much about voice as possible. Our actual voice changes over time, and it varies in tone and style depending on who we are talking to and what we are discussing, so logically that would be reflected when writing a post for your blog, as long as your blog reflects who you are, all of you, if your blog is just one aspect of you, then it will only reveal the sound which goes with that aspect. I think sometimes blogs are a created for a voice that is silent or quiet in RL, it is the place where that voice can speak, maybe even shout, if it is not allowed to speak anywhere else. What prompted this post, are you feeling the need to express a new voice?

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    1. Yes. I feel like I have many voices, some more popular than others but all of them mine. On a public forum, you do feel anxious about experimenting with voice in case people feel it fragments your blog or frustrates expectation. On the other hand, merely talking to yourself or talking in different voices to a drifting population does not help develop voice or build conversation.

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  15. I would say one’s voice is one’s voice if they are using their own voice that is and not simply aping another’s voice. A writers voice should be consistant I believe, through tone gravity and other devises. Writers that are always changing their voices come across as having a personality disorder and I would even go as far as to argue that they have not yet discovered our true voice. yes it will evolve but the basic elements as in our day to day speaking will not change very much… Simply put voice is who you are as a writer.

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  16. I like what you have written and it makes me think about my own words and what they reflect. As a new writer in the blogosphere I work hard at ‘ignoring’ my audience and writing from my core, as you describe the underlying character. I believe that this is the beauty of live writing as in a blog, it reflects a person in their character as they interact with the world.

    Thanks for sharing.

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