’Find your voice,’ say the writing seers, as you dip your toe into the blogging and authoring world.
Which is odd when you think you are writing to be read not heard – unless you’re going straight to Audible, a rather pretentious alternative to the 1980s’ films that went straight to video.
It’s one of those statements that can flummox the novice and be difficult to explain, leading to advice such as ‘you’ll know it when you find it’. This is up there with ‘you just know when they’re the one’ and ‘this Government will make a difference’ as the most universally unhelpful guidance you can offer the perpetually bewildered.
But, and here’s the thing, I’m beginning to wonder if you need to find a blogging voice or whether it’s one of those things that emerges of its own accord with the passing of the years, like cynicism and hairy ears. It finds you, if you like.
I didn’t have expectations about blogging when I started and I certainly had no ideas about who I might engage with through reading and commenting. If you’d asked me I’d have assumed people of my own age and demographic, broadly.
Digressing briefly, because that’s what I do, there’s a fascinating programme on the Beeb just now that follows a prosecutor as she puts together cases to be taken to trial. These take team work with the police and other lawyers and so far we’ve seen them create cases against those involved in modern slavery in British towns and using drones to get drugs into prison. The thing is the star of this show is totally blind, using a guide dog and some nifty technical gizmos to get about and do her job.
In judging witnesses, indeed people generally, she goes by what they say. She gets no visual clues. She gets gender, accents, tone, and emotions through sound. Unlike we who use our five (or in the case of the Textiliste, six – she has a bullshit sensor) senses. And she is very comfortable with that.
I cannot begin to categorise my own little blogging community. I’ve met a few and I’m pretty sure in some cases, had we met face to face first the friendships I’ve forged on the blog might have been stillborn because those visual clues would have created a ‘first impression’ that might have coloured our reactions to each other.
Instead that first impression is based around other clues. Humour, empathy, articulacy, things you can pick up from the written word. I follow and happily engage with people half my age, my children’s age from parts of the globe and imbued with cultural memes so far from my own.
Without visual clues to help me, and them, we must form our judgements against a different set of criteria. One we are not used to using.
I’ve been involved in running the Bloggers Bash from its inception in 2014. One of the recurring themes for those attending the meet ups for the first time is their nervousness whether, and their delight at finding that, people are in fact like they are on their blog.
’I was really worried about what (other bloggers) would be like.’
It’s as if we expect to be conned because we cannot see and hear (and maybe smell and touch, if you are members of the Fngg Brotherhood of Trampoling Monks Of St Sponge) said Bloggers.
But I’ve met a fair few bloggers now and they are pretty much what it says on the tin (or in the About section – though if you have a blog and not an About section which also allows comments, you are missing a trick – just saying).
Their ‘voices’ are original and they are unique and above all pretty authentic. Whatever they try to be, those voices come through.
And like me, probably without trying. Their voice is there. As they settle to what makes them comfortable their voices emerge and if they are thoughtful, empathetic, generous, humorous and so on, that comes out.
I know this isn’t always the case. There are clever con artists out there but for the broad majority that isn’t the case.
And better still, those voices aren’t distorted by the kinds of instinctive prejudices and stereotyping which we are all prone to lean on when forming our judgements if using the full range of available clues
It means I’m exposed to a wider range of people than might otherwise be the case. Which is, I’d say, all rather splendid.
Now all I need to do is find my voice in my novels and I’m set….