It’s a cliche, of course. Writers, artists, and performers of all sorts (including politicians and business speakers) are forever being told that they have to “find their own voice.” The premise in all this advice is that each one of us is a unique individual with our own way of seeing the world and sometimes by speaking our own truths in our own way we can help other people find theirs. Your “voice” is your style, how you present your own truths.
Those of us who want to communicate our thoughts to the world spend a lot of time thinking on that. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out not only how to say our own say, but also we keep trying to figure out how to find an audience that will hear us when we do. Communication is a two-way street. There’s you doing the sending and there’s all those other guys doing the receiving (and talking back).
Here are some thoughts about this from a varied group of people who have been working in their craft for a while. All of them have worked on finding their own voice. Each of them has found and cultivated an audience who hears them. Perhaps one of their ideas will spark some of your own.
TO FIND YOUR VOICE, USE IT
Artist and online entrepreneur Austin Kleon, in his book SHOW YOUR WORK: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity And Get It Discovered, had some hard-earned advice. After years of trying to figure it out he says, “….now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.”
This YouTube video, “How to Find Your Own Voice,” was published by Bedros Keuilian, the president of Fit Body Boot Camp International, which is among the fastest growing fitness chains in the world, apparently. Keuilian focuses on marketing strategies in his videos. In this one, Keuilian points out the importance of being you. (Everybody else is taken.)
USE YOUR VOICE TO FIND YOUR AUDIENCE
As a writer, a speaker or an artist, your incentive for developing a voice is so that people will recognize you, listen to you, hear you. Madman-writer Dan Harmon advises, “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.”
In this YouTube video clip published by FidelWriting, Harmon is giving a talk at the Nerdist Writers Panel. This bit of silliness is Episode 107, “Structure of a Sitcom.” In his advice to young writers Harmon does a wonderful riff about storytellers….
Buried in the laughter is a truth: Your voice is yours. Don’t let anyone take it away from you.
This little gem’s from Roz Parry, a consultant in communication and team-building. She agrees that the best way to find your audience is to speak with your own voice. “You have to be true to your deep beliefs, especially in the face of adversity. That way you attract the people to you who value you and what you stand for. They come to you, not the other way around.”
SUSSING OUT YOUR AUDIENCE
Finding and speaking with your voice is only half of the communication equation. You also need to know something about the audience that your work attracts.
Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold was the Secretary-General of the United Nations for most of the 1950’s. Hammarskjold pointed out another truth, “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you hear what is sounding outside, and only he who listens can speak.”
Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of The Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams generate brilliant ideas. He regularly speaks and consults with companies about how to develop practices and systems that lead to everyday brilliance. He’s written three books: ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE, DIE EMPTY and LOUDER THAN WORDS.
Henry says, “It’s not the responsibility of your intended audience to adapt to you, it’s your responsibility to adapt your idea so they can receive it.”
So, how do you suss out your audience? Listening is a big part of that. So is research.
This Kickstarter YouTube video is part of a collection of helpful tips and advice from creators about common Kickstarter project questions. In this one, “Knowing Your Audience,” filmmakers Karyn Parsons , the creator of “The Janet Collins Story;” Adam Weber and Jimmy Goldblum, co-directors of “Tomorrow We Disappear;” David Thorpe, director of “Do I Sound Gay?” and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, director of “Call Me Kuchu” tell how they worked to find and build the audiences for their crowd-funded projects:
Here’s a poem about getting the voice right….
When you get it right, when it all goes well,
And everything falls in place,
There’s a shift inside of you
That opens up another space.
You’re an empty, hollow flute
That the winds blow through and through,
And the words that appear on the page
Don’t even feel like you.
You think another voice
Has sounded through your throat,
And all the notes and pauses
Seem to effortlessly float.
The variations and the themes
Are from some other place,
Some other who in some other when,
Wearing some other face.
It is a comfort then
To understand and see
That the self you think you know
Is more than you think it could be.
The music of the spheres contain the songs you sing
Stop shrinking yourself small;
You’ll get big enough inside
To contain and reframe them all.
By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Disembodied Voices by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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