This was the name of the Episcopal church volleyball team I played on after high school in Sylacauga, Alabama. Population 10,000 — with over a hundred churches. Jim Nabors’s home town. Remember “The Andy Griffith Show”? Golly!
I chose the name. The team agreed. The church agreed! We had T-shirts made.
God smiled. God likes a joke, too.
Swampy air on bare skin. Bugs and the buzzing of night lights. My teen muscles, coiled springs. Bump, Set, Spike. Here it comes! I leap up from the red dirt court and spike that ball smack into the other team’s holy faces.
Talk about a misfit.
I wasn’t Episcopalian. I didn’t belong down South. I was living with a foster family.
The other small town evening options didn’t appeal — Cruising Ogletree Plaza, four-wheeling and spotlighting deer, or TP-ing (toilet-papering) people’s houses.
So, I played night volleyball.
Everybody knew I named the team. Even at 16, people recognized it. Holy Terrors! distilled my point of view. Captured my voice. You could feel the funny, the outsiderness, and the fierceness at the same time.
And something else.
Because finding your voice — let alone expressing it — requires you to eat your fear. To peel back the layers of nicety, of comfort (read laziness), of fitting in.
What is voice?
For the last two years, everyone in business is talking about story. You’ve got to tell story to attract customers. You can’t have a brand without story. You are your story. Blah-dee-blah.
I’m here to tell you story alone — is not enough. You can tell a story and it can fall flat.
What makes story come to life is voice.
Voice is vertical. Voice requires digging deep. Voice is distinctly yours and yours alone.
Here’s what voice isn’t. It isn’t cliche. It isn’t copying other people’s tried-and-true sales language (and boring us all into a mind-numbing stupor thank you very much.) It isn’t tossed-off, dry facts that dessicate the brain.
“Cliche throttles voice,” says my author friend Dylan Landis. She suggests taking a draft and cutting anything that sounds familiar.
Sure, that’s a little tricky with business. We entrepreneurs do need to think about key words. And words that work in the market. That communicate our message clearly.
Here’s the ugly truth though: If you’re an expert — and all entrepreneurs are — nobody will hear your message if you don’t first emotionally engage and entertain.
Story can entertain.
Story cannot emotionally engage without voice.
Voice goes vertical. Voice roots us in our vision. Voice anchors us in our most authentic emotions. You know — the ones we ignore, or deny, or hide.
Dylan says, “Voice is clarity. Voice is brevity. Voice is distinctive word choice. Voice is the ability to tell a story that glues me to the page.”
David Sedaris has voice. Danielle LaPorte has voice. James Altucher has voice. You read them and you know it’s them.
I bet your favorite writers have voice if you stop and look.
Voice is the purest form of expression.
Don’t you want to be heard?
That’s right! Success in business these days requires personal growth through mastering the techniques of personal narrative (she says, gleefully rubbing her hands.) I love taking entrepreneurs through the 7-step process of identifying their Signature Story and finding their voice. Once they do, they connect more strongly to their tribe, and they attract more clients. Another benefit is they’re more confident.
Finding your voice — your true, authentic voice — will do that. It will change you. It will push you to step into your power.
Are you a fan of the groundbreaking TV show” The Sopranos”? The head writer always gave the same note every time all the writers met.
Words to live by.
If you want to move others, you have to move yourself first.
More words to live by.
And isn’t what we’re doing about movement? We want to change lives. Make a difference. Move people with our message.
Then move yourself first.
You’ve got to connect to your emotion. Knit that emotion to words that resonate for you. Then write from the heart. Not the head.
Here’s a secret: You can’t access voice if you don’t know who you are.
The good news is, you will meet yourself if you take the time to write. And rewrite. Or re-vise. Literally, re-see. Because we have a lot of layers and tell ourselves a lot of lies.
Writing is your pathway to a writing that’s a unique as your fingerprint. As your handprint.
It is your signature.
It is your ticket to standing out.
Recently I read a powerful book called Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too) by Theo Pauline Nestor. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, calls it the new Bird by Bird. I highly recommend this book if you are serious about finding your voice, and bringing your story to vibrant life. Theo is down-to-earth, vulnerable and inspirational. She’s also got some great tools in there to help you on your journey.
Simon Sinek woke us all up with his call to find our Why.
Now, it’s time to find our Voice.
Otherwise, nobody will hear you scream.
And success will continue to elude you.
Yrs in truth,
LIVELY-UP-YOUR-LANGUAGE! QUICK WRITING EXERCISE: Be original with your word choice! Take a piece of copy you’ve written. Or even just a title! Pick out a tired word in there. Now play. Play by making a list of all the words you can substitute for it. Include words that seem crazy. Have fun! You’re not only allowed — you better start incorporating this approach. Because play, and fun, are critical for innovation. And innovation will save your business — and maybe your life. See if you can find a word that still communicates what you want to say clearly — and does so with some freshness. You are allowed to surprise yourself — and others. We will thank you for it. And we will notice you.
Check out Dylan Landis’s website at http://www.dylanlandis.com. She’s the author of the critically acclaimed linked story collection Normal People Don’t Live Like This and the forthcoming novel, Rainey Royal.
Find out more about Theo at http://www.theopaulinenestor.com. She’s got a cool blog and some groovy writing exercises there. Read her new book for more tips and inspiration.
Join the Conversation!
Are you struggling with your Voice? Read the latest raw + real ezine, and get inspired. We are getting so many people asking for help with finding their voice, we are creating a group program which will launch in January AND for those who prefer quick ‘n’ dirty deep dives, we’re also going to be offering group and individual Voice Intensive Days — both virtual and live.
These intensives are designed to target your specific needs — whether you need to forge a Signature Story for the page and stage, clarify your Point of View, find your Voice, or tap into your Vulnerability — we are here to help nurture, support — and kick your arse! Zap us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with Unleash My Voice in the title and we’ll get right back to you. Otherwise, stay tuned by joining our Ezine community. We are in the process of re-branding and have lots of cool stuff coming soon.
Look out too for upcoming launch of Raw + Real ezine: Where artists, entrepreneurs and money meet.
We’d love to hear your comments. Your experiences. Whether the exercise inspired. Did you resonate with today’s ezine?
Tell us. We welcome your stories and your sharing. Be part of the conversation. Let us support you.
Okay, my darlin’ . . . I totally agree with you. And I love this “food for thought” . . . “Success in business these days requires personal growth through mastering the techniques of personal narrative” We were just discussing this is my Mastermind last week. You also can’t make a decent video either until you find your voice.
You really named the team The Holy Terrors? And the church was OK with that?
Hey back, dariln’! So glad you agree! Isn’t that intriguing? The idea that success in biz today requires mastering techniques of personal narrative for their personal growth yield, among other reasons? Makes total sense this holds true for vid, too!
As they say, you can’t work with a copywriter if you don’t have your voice. That’s not something you farm out. How cool you were talking about this in your recent Mastermind! Psychic soup!
Yes! I did name the team that. I still have the T-shirt! The church was fine. It was an Episcopal church, and teeny compared to the behemoth Baptist and Methodist churches. I think they had a sense of humor.
Thanks for the inspiration and advice! It makes total sense! I need to write more so I can find that voice. I’m speaking to a group tomorrow and I am going to remember your words “emotionally engage and entertain.” and to remember there has to be a great voice along with the stories–
You’re welcome, Fay! Yes, there’s no way around it. If you do want to find voice, it’s all about the writing. How did your talk to the group go?! We’d love to know! Did those words stick with you? How’d you translate “emotionally engage” and “entertain” into your talk? Can’t wait to hear!
Wow. You are hitting some key issues! Finding voice and being heard are huge. For women, for kids, for misfits, for most all of us really. “Go deeper” is scary, but important. Thank you for this, which resonates with what I’m working on in my personal and political lives these days! I’ll bet everyone in that town wanted to be your friend. xx Angela
Thanks Angela! Yes, they’re so connected. If you do want to be heard — and don’t we all? — you’ve got to spend the time to carve out your distinctive voice. It’s usually hiding (often in plain sight!) Yes, it can be scary. Have you done it much? How cool you pay attention to the intersection of personal and political. As for Sylacauga — I think it’s safe to say I polarized that town. Many just wanted to save my soul. Ha! Rachelxo
You totally rocked the no-lace dress. What a hotty. What a Holy Terror! It just goes to show that when we speak our truth with conviction and confidence, we can get even a CHURCH to buy into a name like Holy Terrors!
That is a great thing for business owners to remember! Confidence sells! Speaking from our heart and guts and emotion and truth sells.
Our Voice comes from our Truth. Ain’t no way around that.
How sweet are you, Wendi! Yeah, that simple borrowed spaghetti strap dress felt way more comfortable and me. Sixteen. Weird, eh? So much was going on internally! And yet there I was, smiling away. Trippy. Yes — that’s true, isn’t it? I knew that name rocked! The church was cool with it, and so were the other team members (many who’re on Facebook!)
Yes, confidence sells. And as Suzanne Evans says, (and no doubt others), the one with the most confidence wins.
And, adding in heart, guts, emotion and truth is what cinches it.
Yes. Voice comes from our Truth. And…that can sometimes be an elusive or at least challenging thing to find and stand behind.
Thank you for this wonderful insight and sage guidance.
Finding our voice is indeed a process in our writing. I find it also helps my marketing clients to relate their marketing to their voice so that it speaks authentically to their ideal audience. If we stay true to ourselves then I believe “client attraction” happens, leading to increased revenue and business growth.
You’re most welcome, Wanda! Spot on to point out that finding voice in writing is a process. Defnitely that voice is knit from biz to ideal audience. In fact — if you find and claim your voice — your ideal audience will find you. (And non-ideal will peel away.) Totally agree with all you say!
Great insight, Rachel! We are born knowing our voices, it’s why we gurgle, cry, scream to show our happiness, our pleasure, our discomfort or our pain. Then something happens, we learn to filter our voice so that it is in harmony with those around us and somewhere along the way, we forget what it actually sounds like. It is a grand thing to have people like you to help us find it again!
Yay! Glad you found it a great insight! Lovely description of voice, and how we know it early on. Yes, we filter it. (Or some of us do. I was always a contrarian so I reveled in sharpening my voice, and distinguishing it from an early age. For me — I just never connected it to basic business principles! It was alllll about the voice, the art…) So glad that focus and skill now helps people out in this realm!
So many juicy quotes in this one!!
“Eat your fear”
“Voice is vertical”
“If you want to move others, you have to move yourself first.”
I’m going to start quoting you on my social media, Ms Resnick!
Beyond groovy that you picked out specific quotations! You rock Pamela Wills! I would be most humbly honored and pleased if you quoted me on social media. Very fun to see those lines plucked out. Thanks for your read, careful attention and generosity!
Love this. I’m going to include the link in the podcast Yoga Teachers Gone Techie. We start with Dharma and then finding Voice. And it can be scary.
Nice tip on the Lively up your Lang.
Heya C –
Well how cool are you?! Linking to this in your podcast Yoga Teachers Gone Techie! You do? You start with Dharma then find Voice? I want to listen! Can you post the link?
Thanks too for you the props on Lively up your Lang. I like your abbreviating style, girl!
I love your point about voice being more than just telling a story. It really is about that authentic signature that helps me stand out, and finding it does take work. Having guts to put it out there is another part of the equation, along with not letting what others have to say about it matter!
Hey Aly — so right, that it’s got two parts. The work to find that Voice — then, the courage to put it out there. And not worrying about the response. What did someone tell me? You put stuff out there — you a) have to expect more response and b) you don’t want to believe the worst OR the best. You just keep on keeping on
Such great advice! And have you ever noticed that when you are passionate about something or someone and you share it, your excitement shines through and others get excited, too.
I can really relate to voice when it comes to authors. That’s why when I find an author I love, I keep reading their books. Thank you, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult and all you business, inspirational and personal development authors!
P.S. The dress with no ruffles – glad you’ve kept that spark of badass in you!
What a lovely comment, Elizabeth! Yes, passion can be inspiring. How interesting the authors you resonate with — curious why and very cool that you read outside the typical biz dimension. I’m always recommending that to clients!
What I say is this:
You’re only as good a writer as what you read.
Good on you. And thanks for comment about ruffle-less dress too — yes ma’am, always gotta keep the badass flame going!
Wow, I loved your story about the Holy Terrors and can just picture you out there playing volleyball with the team! I so agree with you about voice and the power of finding it!! You certainly have a powerful voice and it came across to me as I read your blog! Loved it!
Hey Gabrielle. So glad you dug the story! Yes — they were memorable nights. You made me smile — knowing that my voice, and that story came to life for you. You remind me why I write. Thank you for your warm words!
Holy Terrors! That’s so Rachel. And exactly what you’re referring to about voice.
I got to meet David Chase of The Sopranos fame at an event I organized for the Armagnac Musketeers. He was becoming a member of this secret society of those who love the not-so-known brandy from Gascony, France (also home to the Alexandre Dumas, writer of The Three Musketeers). Chase and writer Michael Imperioli worked the brandy into an intense dream sequence with Tony in “Everybody Hurts.” A demonstration of bringing yourself to your writing.
Thank you Rachel for helping me find my voice. So fun being on this journey with you.
Ha! It is so Rachel, isn’t it?! Yes. Great that you see how it IS voice. Right there. In a team name.
You did?! You met David Chase?!?! Bow down. I know want to say Armagnac Musketeers twenty times fast. What is that?! Armagnac is delicious. Love the Dumas connection. AND how brilliant that you picked out how they worked the brandy into a dream sequence. I’ve gotta revisit it now. Great title, btw — “Everybody Hurts.” Yes — that “Go Deeper” of course — always inspires. Always.
Elaine — you are the bomb. It’s been my complete pleasure and privelege to watch you find that voice — hiding in plain sight! — along with a goldmine of material that was also hiding in plain sight! You’re on fire.
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