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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.


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.)


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.”


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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I’m writing this on the day after Christmas.  It always seems to be a time that encourages reflection.

This time of year feels like what I imagine landfall at a home port must have felt like for the captain and crew of the tall ships in centuries past.  There’s all kinds of hoo-hah and celebration, but underneath it all you are thinking and planning and preparing for your next voyage.

Very soon now we’ll be ringing in the new year.  Facing future is the order of the day for many folks.  It’s a time for reflection on the past year and a time to regroup and re-think.


For my own self it is a time to take a new look at what I call my “manifesto.”  I made up this thing about 14 years ago when I realized that every year I spent this time brooding over all my past failures and vowing (yet again) to pick up chops.

Even as I put together my plan for the new year, I knew in my gut that the resulting euphoric high from doing it was likely to last about a month and a half.  After that I fully expected to drown again in the all of everything.  I knew I would probably fall right back into the same-old.

The whole process was less than satisfactory.  Rather than making yet another to-do list of new year’s resolutions, I decided to choose the direction I was going to head and to write it down.

Here’s my current manifesto’s statement of direction:

“The path I choose, the one I will gladly and freely accept, is the life of a kanaka makua, a sovereign person.  This life-path I am choosing is one that is filled with freedom, creativity, love, joy, synergy, balance, aliveness, contentment, peace, art, books and music.”

This statement has stayed pretty much the same for the past few years.  It is, after all, the result of years of revision. I do know my statement sounds high-flying and woo-woo to the max, but that is just me.  (I’ve always figured that if you aim for the stars, at least you’ll maybe get your ass to the moon….)

The rest of my manifesto goes on to delineate how I plan to walk in the year ahead.  I go over the strategies I noted at the beginning of the year.  Then I will refine (or dump) the ones that did not work as I expected or write down new ones that I’ve discovered.

I limit the things to no more than the six life-areas that I feel are important:

  • caring for the framework of my life (house, gardens, transportation, offices,  workspaces, body and finances);
  •  making room for my heart people;
  • playing and helping other people play;
  • making the ordinary sacred;
  • remembering and honoring the fact  that the Creative and the sacred moves through the world;
  • learning to dance well with money-energy.

Your life areas will probably be different.

Each area gets no more than six simple strategies to help further the steps I am taking to make a life filled with meaning and mana.  It’s gotten a lot easier to do this manifesto-thing now than when I first started.  The manifesto sits in a computer file from one year to the next.  (Writing it out by hand every time I revised it used to be a major production.)

My manifesto strategies are not goals.  There are no dance-step diagrams in this thing and no deadlines that have to be met.  They are just a part of a roadmap and a plan for the next journey I am choosing to make in the coming year.  As 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon once said, “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.” To my mind, the ablest navigators are the ones who know where they want to go.  It’s the first step.

In this ever-changing world, however, on any journey, you do need to be able to “flow with the go,” as Guy Kawasaki says.  Objectives, goals, deadlines and such will happen when you interface with the world.  Those will come later.  Manifesto-making is just choosing the direction in which you are heading.  There are no firm-lipped resolutions to mess up, no florid vows to break, and no major deadlines to blow.

For a less woo-woo (and probably more practical) approach to writing a manifesto, here’s this YouTube video “How to Write a Manifesto” published by Empower the Tribe.

A more detailed how-to-do-it may be found in Todd Henry’s book, LOUDER THAN WORDS.


This year when I do my manifesto, I’m also going to try a reflection exercise that online entrepreneur Derek Halpern, the self-styled “conversion expert,” and the founder of the website “Social Triggers” recommends.

Here’s what you do:

  • Look back at the past year. Now ask yourself,  “What went well?”  Do a monthly review of your past  year and choose the one thing each month that worked out really well for you.  (I plan to look through my old planner book and my journals for the year.  I’ll pick out the triumphs and blessings in a year beset with setbacks and list the best, one for each month.)
  • Now, look at all those shiny triumphs and ask, “Can I do it again? How?”  As   Halpern says, “If something went well once, it can go well again.”  The thing you have to figure out is how to make that happen.

And that’s it….

My own feeling on this is that if you can spend your time figuring out how to replicate and reiterate the things that worked during the past year and then go do it again next year, then by the end of the year, you’ll probably have a whole bunch of new shiny stuff.

The exercise could also be a good way to remind yourself that the Universe is still on  your side…especially after a hard year.

Halpern shares his knowledge of psychology with entrepreneurs and bloggers, helping them gain greater market share with many counter-intuitive strategies that work.  You might want to check out his website, Social Triggers.


One book I’ve found valuable in thinking about all this stuff is LIFE CYCLES:  Your Emotional Journey to Freedom and Happiness, by Christine DeLorey.  DeLorey is a writer and world-renowned numerologist.

The book is divided into three parts.  First you learn how to find your “Destiny Number,” the one you were born with and what it may mean for you.  Then you learn how to determine where you are on your Journey through the 108 possible cycles of your life, year by year and month by month.  The last part is an explanation of DeLorey’s philosophy and why she constructed the book in this particular way.

The structure of this book has proven to be useful to me.  Knowing where I am in a cycle of my life and using that as a starting point, I have been able to make some fairly good decisions that have led me to very good places in my life.  I have also, I think, been able to resolve many puzzling questions for myself and find new ways of thinking as well.

Numerology is an ancient way of studying life.  Whether you believe in its effectiveness or not, in the hands of a person like DeLorey, who has apparently thought deeply about life and how to live it most effectively, numerology becomes a very useful tool for finding strategies for navigating through all of the situations and circumstances that life can throw at you.  It makes the chaos feel more organized.

For years now, at the start of each month I have read the relevant entry in DeLorey’s book for whatever month of the cyclically numbered year  I’m living through.  I pick out the likely lessons for the month.  I consider  DeLorey’s suggestions for dealing with them.  During the month I often get the chance to try out these suggestions.

I am not sure why this practice seems to work.  (It could just be a function of where I am putting my attention, after all.)

However, when I’ve encountered situations that go wonky, I’ve been able to take stances and make moves that help resolve things in a satisfying way using DeLorey’s advice.  The lessons I’ve learned along the way have been eye-opening and the take-aways I’ve gotten from the situations are often surprising and sometimes counter-intuitive.

I do recommend giving DeLorey’s LIFE CYCLES a space on your reference shelf.  Perhaps it will work well for you as well….


Doing the work of making a manifesto, then trying to figure out where you might explore next and how, then working your way through your year following the things you’ve thought on seems like a lot of complications for an already complex life, I know.  For some reason, though, I’ve found that making the time and doing it upfront in this way seems to help you figure out how to take care of getting the most important things in your life done.

Meaning and mana in a life doesn’t just happen automatically, I find.  Maybe nothing that is worthwhile happens automatically….

In any case, it sure does work better than making dumb resolutions that you know you are never going to keep.

Here’s a poem:



It seems to me

That this whole year

I’ve been looking at

Who I am and where.


I like me.

I like where I am.


For one whose imperative

Seems to be about growing,

About transformation,

This is a conundrum.


What do I keep?

What do I let go?

How do I change?

Or do I have any say, really?


I know the direction

I am wanting to go…

Towards peace and joy and love.

I am learning again

What doesn’t get me there.


But, it seems a small goal,

A very little one.

Still, if I can get there

Maybe I can point the way

For others who are trying

To get there as well.


Maybe that is all that I can do.


by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Tall Ships by JFB119 via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
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Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people and organizations “generate brilliant ideas.”  In his book about developing a voice, LOUDER THAN WORDS, he recounts a piece of advice that artist/illustrator Lisa Congden received from her art teacher.

The teacher told Lisa that the thing to remember is that every creative project (no matter what it is) has a U-shape.  You start with a clear plan and great enthusiasm.  As you work on the project, your natural energy starts fading.  Things that seemed so very simple at the top of that U when you began the thing prove to be complex and unclear and the way gets very boggy as the mist rolls in.  Nothing is as straightforward as it first seemed.  At this point, people often lose heart and give up.

But, he said, if you keep slogging on through the deepest muck at the bottom of that U, then your heart starts to fill up again, your passion revives, you start seeing the patterns of this thing and the fog clears.  You find the path opens up again and your energy will return – sometimes stronger than ever.  When this happens, he said, the resulting work is usually far better than ever seemed possible at the bottom of that U.

For this reason, Henry says, you need to be guided by a larger vision for your work.  Your job (as you slog through the Valley of Despond) is to keep your end-goal in sight, even when your view of it is blocked by frustration and complications.

The antidote for the part when you’re running on fumes at the bottom of the valley is to remain focused on your vision and to keep on taking the next step, then the next one and then the one after that.  You keep going until you get through the downer place.

As Henry says, “There will be peaks upon which everything seems so clear and your work is so on target that you want to share it with everyone you meet, and there will be valleys in which you question why you’re even trying.  It’s all part of the process, and it’s never ending….”

Another poem….


And life goes on…

Whatever is happening

Does a slow and stately dance,

Flowing like dark molasses, heavy and dense,

Or else it tumbles like some hip-hopping crew

Zit-zack-zuck, whizzing by,

All the many, many parts

Zooming, on the fly.


Me, I’m just one little bit –

A ‘one’, a ‘zero’, a spectator, really –

Trying (in my way) to see

The whole meshugennah thang,

Trying to go for the grace,

Step-step-stepping lightly,

Looking for the beauty,

And helping other people play.


I can just do little things:

Lend a hand when I can,

Do the small move that evokes a quiet smile,

Turn on the teeny maglight

And shine it on the path,

Turn one small key that opens one more little lock.


And I’ve been thinking…

Maybe that can be a cool thing.

by Netta Kanoho

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