Challenge Journal: making it not boring

Usually when I write, I write how I talk. Which is often pretty sassily with lots of tangents that sort of fit with the overall theme but sometimes don’t really at all. I think that it makes writing easier to read- you know, when the writing is kinda “train of thought-like”, and you can tell how the author’s brain works and that they’re a real human being.

When I write about super serious stuff that’s super important to me and that I’m pretty super worried about being judged about, I tend to lose my “train of thought” style of writing. I get nervous that people are going to see me as a crazy person, and I try to make my writing a little less “crazy”, if that makes any sense whatsoever. It’s almost as though I’m already revealing so much about myself and my life through just the content that I freak out and don’t want to also hand over the way I speak on a silver platter. It feels too personal, too real.

Last semester, I was in a very personal essay-writing class in which we played around with creating essays using different mediums. Before that class, I had never really written an essay on who I think I am- the fundamentals of what makes me me. I had written pieces on relationships and friendships that were more or less just story based, which, honestly, is a bit of a cop-out. I could show the reader bits and pieces of my personality based on how I felt about other people- a good tactic, but definitely taking the easier route.

Writing an essay (it turned out to be a photo essay) just about who I think I am was so freaking hard. I really wanted to start with this quote from Jim Rohn, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” I restarted it six different times because every draft’s introduction just didn’t sound like me. They were so formal. I almost fell asleep reading back through them. I didn’t know how to make people care. My professor finally told me to just write how I talk. I wouldn’t say to someone “quote, you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with, unquote, Jim Rohn.” I would say something more like…

“This guy named Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I only bothered to look Jim up because I wanted to get the quote completely right. It appears that he was a white, male, motivational speaker, if you care. I heard the quote a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of those things that stuck with me because it freaked me out.”

…and that’s how I ended up starting the paper.

It’s definitely been difficult over the course of this project to just write how I talk and not get too “preachy”. I didn’t want to make it sound as if I though I knew everything and was the world’s next Ghandi. I just wanted my writing to sound like me. By now, we’re far enough along in the process that I’ve just gotta hope I’ve achieved that.

4 thoughts to “Challenge Journal: making it not boring”

  1. Hi Larkin,
    I’ve been having the exact same problem when it comes to using voice in my Capstone. I’ve also considered my voice one of my strengths in my writing, but I’m worried that using too much of my own voice (i.e. thoughts/emotions/opinions) will cloud the more analytical/research based parts of project. I completely agree with what you said about sounding too preachy- I don’t want to just sound like I’m on my soapbox or an angry feminist just shouting into the void. Do you feel like your project sounds like how you talk? That’s what I’m trying to go for, but also don’t want to make it sound like I’m try too hard to be personable/relatable. But like you said, I’m too far in the process to make any major changes now (sigh).

  2. Larkin,
    I totally agree with you that maintaining your own voice in writing is crucial, but really hard. When I don’t feel like something I write is in my voice, it feels so uncomfortable and forced. Like I’m trying to be someone I’m not. I loved the example quote you gave. When I thought about the difference between the two opening lines, the one that is written in your voice made me want to read on. If I were to have access to your entire photo essay, I would know right off the bat that what I was about to read was going to be honest and written from the heart. This is something that I struggled with in the initial stages of my project composition. I ended up changing the introduction completely in order to be able to tell a story that could be in my voice, and that I truly wanted to share. Based on the example you gave and your blog post itself, I can tell that you know how to put your voice into words pretty well– I’m sure your readers will recognize that too!

  3. Hey, Larkin,

    Your title roped me in here. I wrote a similar post about finding my voice and how the idea of my perceived audience doesn’t always let me do that. I smirked at the line about using writing about people close to you as a cop out when writing about yourself, as I remember your gateway project about your relationship with your sisters. Writing about ourselves for an audience that includes anyone but ourselves can be terrifying, and those fears can get in the way of what we’re trying to say.

    I’ve settled on trying the “rant and write” method– i.e.: channeling thoughts directly from my brain to my computer screen before I have enough time to think about what they mean and how different members of my audiences might perceive them. That way, the unfiltered, personal truth is just out there, and it sometimes helps me discover thoughts that I didn’t even know I had been thinking. Remember: your audience doesn’t see your messy thoughts. So, write freely; think of yourself as the one and only member of your audience first, and revise to speak to your real audience later. Good luck!

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