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3 Steps To Find Your Voice (And Why You Should Start Now)

June 12th, 2024 | 5 min. read

By Ian Harber

3-steps-to-find-your-voice-and-why-you-should-start-now

A few months back, I shared a strategy for writing on the Internet. However, when you’re writing or making other kinds of content, you can have the best strategy in the world, but if you haven’t found your voice in order to effectively communicate your message as you, then it will be difficult (if not impossible) to break through the noise. 

So how do you find your voice? Most people won’t have a unique voice the second they sit down behind a camera or keyboard and start making content. But over time, if you follow three steps over and over again in a cycle, you will eventually begin to develop a voice that sounds uniquely like you. Those three steps are:

  1. collect dots,
  2. connect dots, and
  3. communicate the connection.

But first, this post isn’t just about how to find your voice. It’s also about why you should find your voice. Read to the end for that.

Collect Dots

Recently, a friend asked me, “How do I get better at writing?” and my instinctual answer was, “Read a lot.” That might sound counterintuitive because reading is obviously not writing, but there are two principles at work here. The first is that by reading great writing, you learn how to craft sentences and paragraphs that captivate readers, hold their attention, and stir their imagination. Every writer brings a unique flair to their writing that you can learn from and incorporate into your own writing to add depth.

But the other principle at work is simply the collection of information dots. Little pieces of information that you may not need in the moment, but that you store away in your memory bank as something useful for the future. These small information dots are the raw material of content. They might be stats, facts, anecdotes, stories, or any other number of things. They’re not much by themselves, but without them, you have nothing to draw from. Good content is the output from massive amounts of input. It’s important to read a lot and to read widely. Listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, have interesting conversations, and always be on the lookout for interesting information dots that you remember for future use. Taking in information is for a writer and content creator what hunting and gathering is for a caveman. It’s collecting the raw materials to create what you need to sustain your life, or, in this case, your work.

One particular thing that I like to keep a lookout for is frameworks. A framework is any sort of underlying supportive structure that gives shape to something else. Frameworks are like windows that you can hold up to various things and see through in order to get a unique perspective. The framework might be a definition, a three-part list, or a diagram. I’ve become a framework collector of sorts. For example, this is John Mark Comer’s framework for spiritual formation that I find incredibly useful and have adopted. Another framework I regularly employ is John Frame’s three things the Bible is about (Creator/creature distinction, redemptive history metanarrative, and spirit-filled life). But there are zillions of frameworks to help you see certain topics in a unique light.

Practically speaking, it might be a good idea to keep a running notebook in Apple Notes or another notetaking app of frameworks or other information dots so you don’t have to memorize them immediately. You can just store them and come back to them later, whenever you need to.

Which brings us to our second point.

Connect Dots

If all you ever did was collect dots, you would have an impressive dot collection. But a dot collection is about as useful as a brick collection. It’s only useful when it’s employed to build something. The goal is not to simply collect dots but to connect them. The connection between two dots produces an insight. Sometimes two pieces of seemingly unrelated information can come together to create a new third thing. That third thing is what you’re after. The goal of collecting information is to put that information together to produce an insight.

This is the step that involves critical thinking. You’re thinking through the implications if you connect these dots. What does it mean? Where does it go wrong? What door does it unlock? What door does it lock? What benefit does this provide? Who does this serve? Whenever I’m at this step, I like to text a friend or two who understands the general concepts I’m using to just work through it. There’s almost always a rough draft or a wrinkle or someplace where it doesn’t quite click yet. When I’m connecting dots, I’ll often sit on it for weeks or months just mulling it over in my mind, turning it around, looking at it from different angles, and testing it out in different environments (conversations, Twitter, and, of course, the real test: my wife).

Recently, I was thinking through a framework for discipleship, so I texted a trusted friend about it. He pushed back at helpful places, which made me keep talking, working it out, and explaining it in more detail. By the end of the conversation, he told me that he was crying, thinking about the reality of the framework in his own life. To me, that registered as the first proof of concept. Not long after, a professional Christian counselor reached out and told me that my framework matched almost perfectly with what he uses to counsel people and work with churches through instances of abuse. A second proof of concept. That doesn’t mean it’s airtight yet, but it tells me I’m onto something and that it’s worth continuing to think through and test until I feel like I really have a grasp on it. That’s the power of an insight.

Communicate Connections

Finally, you communicate the connection. With some exceptions, there is nothing particularly compelling about communicating mere information. People aren’t generally looking for information; they’re looking for insight. You don’t always have to show your dots outright in order to communicate the connection. That’s like watching the sausage be made. No one wants that. You don’t have to show how you made the connection—just make the connection for people.

The first thing you want to do in this step is keep your audience in mind. The goal is not simply to sound smart or make people think you’re insightful. Your goal is to serve someone. Maybe you’re trying to articulate a shared experience, move the needle on a topic, or help a particular problem. There can be many different kinds of goals. But your content should always be trying to serve the audience, not just yourself. This means it’s important to have a solid grasp of who you intend to view the content you’re creating and apply the insight to a problem they have.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this is your voice. Inject your personality into it. Tell stories from your life, draw from your experience, experiment with sentence structure and different words you like to use, and any other number of things to make it sound like you. One of the best exercises for this is to write your first draft as if you were just having a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. How would you talk then? You probably wouldn’t be using overly fancy words to impress people. You would probably sound a lot like you. That’s a good place to start.

The last thing is to make your writing clear. The “conversation over coffee” test and the “Is this clear?” test balance each other out to make your writing both personable and effective. You want to make sure that someone reading your article or watching your video can follow your train of thought and understand what you’re trying to say. Your first pass of the content is to help it sound like you, and the second pass is to make it clear to the reader. If your writing sounds like you but isn’t clear, then it won’t accomplish the first task of serving the audience. 

One more note on this: just because you do this once does not mean that you have found your voice. You need reps. Do it over and over again. Put yourself out there. It might feel awkward at first, but eventually, it will become more natural, and you’ll start to see your unique voice emerging in your content.

We Need Your Voice

You may not have realized it yet, but I just made an argument for why we need your voice. Because you will collect dots that others will never see. You will connect dots that others will never connect. You can communicate connections in ways that others can’t. You can serve an audience that others don’t even know about. The insights that you have are your gift to the world. And if that sounds too grandiose? Your insights are a gift to the people who need them. Why would you keep them to yourself? Write the article. Create the Substack. Start the podcast. Shoot the video. Submit the book proposal. Connect the dots for us. Share your insight. We need it.

Now that I’ve given you a three-step framework for finding your voice … what are you going to do with it?

Ian Harber

Ian is a marketing manager at Endeavor and is a digital marketing practitioner with 10 years of experience. He has written about faith and technology, deconstruction and reconstruction for The Gospel Coalition and Mere Orthodoxy as well as appearing on podcasts such as Reconstructing Faith, The Alisa Childers Podcast, Love Thy Neighborhood, The Living Room Disciple, Everything Just Changed, and more. Additionally, Ian has contributed to the book, Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church (TGC, 2021) and is the author of an upcoming a forthcoming book about deconstruction with InterVarsity Press (2024). Ian lives in Denton, Texas with his wife, Katie, and son, Ezra and is a member at The Village Church Denton.

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