I’ve always had a hard time answering this question. We know it when we see it, but it’s hard to describe. All the good writers are supposed to have one, and I’ve come across countless articles claiming to help me find my own writing style. Every article has a different recommendation: Write x words every day for a week, and voila! Or, study your favorite authors and then tweak something they do. Or, do nothing—style will come when it comes where it comes. I’m sure all of them are right in their own way, but they’ve never particularly helped me.
I am most “me” in my writing when I am journaling and blogging. My journal is like that random crap drawer in your kitchen—what my boyfriend and I call “the everything drawer.” What goes in it? Everything. Odd bits and ends, raw emotions, disparate thoughts and ideas, hopes, and dreams. Some might say this is where I am most “authentic,” and where I should go to find my writing style. But I actually think I’m just as authentic when I’m blogging. Editing, polishing, revising—these are all parts of my writing process. If my journal is the everything drawer, then my blog is the silverware drawer: every knife, fork, and spoon present and accounted for in its own slot. And no less a part of my kitchen.
On One Little Library, my writing is distilled—boiled down to its essential pieces and parts. It’s probably a much better, more authentic view of my writing than my journal is. I’ve known this for a while, but I still couldn’t describe to you what my style is.
Until I asked.
I’m currently taking the Imperfect Writer course by Chantel Hamilton and Jason Zook. The very first assignment in the course is to ask people to describe your writing in three words. That’s it! I sent an email off to several friends and family members, thinking that I would get all kinds of answers.
To my surprise, I got answers quickly, and all of them described my writing in roughly the same words. Apparently (and if you’ve been reading One Little Library for a while, you probably knew this before I did!), my writing style is: conversational, intentional, and personal.
When I thought about this more, it made sense. I deeply believe that people want to be written to like they want to be talked to. Like we’re good friends having a conversation. I never want to use my platform to make it sound like I am the conveyor of knowledge and the reader is a passive receiver. Unfortunately, I see this in books all the time. And I get it. Authors often are subject matter experts, and they do have important knowledge to share. But I try to encourage authors to write in a way that honors the knowledge and experience that the reader brings to the table.
Many of my friends said that I sound “nice,” “friendly,” and “likable” in my writing. My sister said: “The voice in my head when I read things from you is always in a good mood.” AWWWWWWWWW!
The next feedback that I got was that I choose my words carefully. “Deliberate.” “Concise.” “Organized.” “Mindful.” Like I mentioned above, when I’m writing for a broader audience, I self-edit constantly. I write a sentence and immediately delete it. I write it again. It takes me at the very least an hour to come up with one blog post—and I usually distrust myself when that’s all it takes. I like to sit on the post, come back to it later, and edit it again before it publishes.
Josh said my writing is “emotional” and “impactful.” Olivia, my sister, said my writing is “passionate.” My mom said I am “transparent” and “genuine.”
One of my pastors growing up used to say, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s true in life and in writing. I write to share something of myself, to make real connections with others. You can’t do that without being vulnerable. I feel very humble when I come to One Little Library—here I am, giving a little bit of my soul every time. What if they don’t like me? I decide it’s worth the risk anyway. I share a bit of myself because I know I’m not alone in how I feel, and I figure someone might like to hear my thoughts and experiences. I’ve been grateful to find many friends and connections through this journey.
It feels liberating to know what my writing style is, like somehow I’ve progressed and gotten that much closer to being a professional. Of course, that’s ridiculous, for two reasons. 1) I’m already a writer (just ask Jeff Goins, author of You Are a Writer); and 2) my writing style will continue to evolve. I’m never done growing as and becoming a writer.