Finding Your True Voice, Part 2

Oct 4, 2012

When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth. —Vonnegut

Finding your true voice is more art than science.

It requires deep self-awareness, practice, experimentation, and a strong sense of personal security. A rather intimidating list of to-dos.

This is why finding your voice takes time. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve yet found mine. As I mentioned Tuesday, it’s been my biggest challenge as a communicator. I’m closer than I’ve ever been before, more in tune and at peace with my unique literary offerings. But I’m still in process. As I grow, so does the voice I use to deliver my message.

I wish I had a 1-2-3-step program to offer. Instead, it’s a process. Like a seed about to break the surface of the ground, your voice requires a birthing. To set it free, you must push past the obstacles to give it full expression:

Perfection. There’s nothing wrong with doing things well. For years I excused my addiction to perfectionism as a pursuit of excellence: in writing, speaking, mothering and even my faith. It’s true that perfectionism brings some benefit, including drive, productivity, and conscientiousness.

When trying to find your unique voice, however, perfectionism becomes less a tool and more a chain. Your true voice cannot contradict who you are. And last I checked, you and I are anything but perfect. Often we try to present ourselves like a well-framed portrait: edited, photo-shopped, utterly contained. But real life—real people—is uncontainable. It spills out the edges, leaves marks and messes to clean up. Instead, spend less time trying to frame yourself, and more time learning to be yourself. As Anne Lamott said, “Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us life is being lived.”

Fear. I could spit nails as I type the word. At first impression, I’ve been told I appear confident, fearless, undaunted by most anyone and anything. But I do not, in fact, laugh in the face of danger. I choke.

The truth is I cringe at the prospect of being wrong or offensive, appearing foolish or inept. I don’t want to be misunderstood or criticized, to the extent I’ve been known to analyze and edit every word of a simple post or article until it is so buffered, so watered down, nothing offends or missteps. Nothing challenges or inspires, either. That’s not the kind of writer I want to be.

To set your voice free, you must face your fear. What’s the worst that can happen? For example, with regards to this post, you could think it stinks, find it boring, ineffectual, and a complete waste of the 60 seconds of life you spent here. Maybe you’ll unsubscribe or never return. Guest what? I’ll get over it. I have a whole beautiful life outside this blog. And as much as I want this post to encourage and inspire you, I can always write another.

Comparison. Writers are typically readers. Those who appreciate the art of communication make it a habit of studying those who do it well. We read their books and savor their words. We follow their blogs and listen, rapt, to their presentations. We fall head-over-heels in love with their work. Then—gasp!—we look at our own. And all we see are scribbles and scratches not worthy to hang on the refrigerator. We compare ourselves with others, and end up discouraged at a result.

To find your voice, you mustn’t get so caught up in another’s gift you fail to see your own. You are an entirely unique creation. You have a voice unlike any other, a seed ready to burst forth from the ground, with an offering of color the world has yet to see. Don’t let perfection, fear or comparison keep the world from seeing one of the Artist’s greatest, individual works:


Of these three obstacles, which most interferes with your true voice?



  1. Denise

    Hands down -fear!
    Being misunderstood or judged are obstacles for me. I am a recovering perfectionist and have finally given myself permission not to be perfect. I think this relieves the comparison problem to a degree, also. But to put myself in a position to be misunderstood and/or judged is still very hard for me.

    • Michele

      I’m with you, Denise. I think the perfectionism isn’t as much an issues as the fear. It’s a tough one to push past. Most of the time I’d rather stay someplace safe.

  2. Stephanie

    I absolutely worry no one will relate to what I have to say. Mostly due to comparison, I constanly worry about not having enough insight or unique ideas. It’s a constant battle to let it go and just write! Loving your blog btw!

    • Michele

      Writing does require a letting go, doesn’t it? That’s tough for me at times, too. Thank you for your authenticity.

  3. Marc Alan Schelske

    Yup. Perfection is a mask for fear. Comparison is a way to make sure my perfectionism is working. Fear of pain and rejection and not-belonging drives perfection. If I can just be enough, you’ll belong me — value me, include me, read my blog, buy my yet-to-be-written book, hire me as a speaker. And so I perform. And the voice that comes out isn’t authentic, because it’s too tight, too controlling, too careful, too concerned with being good enough some imagined person’s estimation.

    The last two years has been a painful unwrapping, noticing, and accepting of all of this. Laughing at my broken self, and finding the artwork God made in me. A little less fear. Noticing the drive to compare. Letting more of life just be what it is.

    Thanks for the great and encouraging post.

    • Michele

      Learn to embrace (and laugh at!) ourselves in all our imperfection is really key. Sounds simple, but it’s anything but! You’ve had quite a journey, Marc. Love watching you step into this next season.

  4. Joseph

    Very INSPIRING… we have a tendency to think that we are not “good enough”… from fear, doubt and a lack of confidence. It is encouragement like this that helps us to be the best that we can be… so that we can live our lives… victoriously.

    • Michele

      That “not good enough” message is a tough one to overcome …

  5. Laurie Acker

    Hi Michele,
    I suppose it’s good to define my enemy, although I hate taking the time to name it! I think Perfectionism comes the closest for me. I have a difficult time accepting that my voice today will be different than my voice 5 years down the road, and different 1o years after that. I am far from the person I want to be, but I want my voice to be THAT voice… I want today’s voice to be the voice of 20 more years of maturity and growth. I want THAT voice to be my voice of today! And even as I type, I feel silly… wanting that… and voicing that here… 🙂
    Thank you for all your words that have already affected my life, and the many more to come!

    • Michele

      It’s hard to be patient with ourselves … allow the process to do its work in us, take its course. Whew.

  6. Deanna


    I was watching for this post (after reading your first post one) but I must have missed it until now!
    The timing is just right for me though – this week I’ve felt the need to pull back from some great writing activities so that my voice can grow and find its own uniqueness.

    Loved this post and being on this crazy-wonderful-writing-journey with you!


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