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.