Being yourself in your writing

Published on 11 July 2023 at 08:50

What is it about “inauthentic” writing that we can spot it almost immediately in someone’s work? I think a great example is the business email. I generated on with ParagraphAI as an example:

“I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out to introduce you to our new product, ProductTM.

ProductTM is a cutting-edge solution for you. It offers a range of features that you will find greatly beneficial.

We have received positive feedback from early adopters who have seen significant improvements. Additionally, ProductTM has been recognized by industry experts for its innovative approach and user-friendly interface.

I would be more than happy to provide you with a demo of ProductTM at your convenience. Please let me know if you would like to schedule a time for a demonstration or if you have any questions.“

This email is great for its purposes, which include marketing or copy writing. It tells you everything you need to know about the product and that’s likely all someone wants to know in this scenario. But what I want to focus on is the fact that it tells you NOTHING about who wrote it (assuming it wasn’t an AI bot as is in this case). We can distinguish a few emotions from this email, like a sense of pride around the product, but there is no way to tell if this is the general attitude of the person writing it. Nobody genuinely talks like this, so there is no information to pull from in our own histories that we can point to and say “yeah, this guy is generally happy, though a bit sarcastic because xyz.” Why is that important? Because when we are writing for creative purposes, the point is to express ourselves as individuals.

Oxford Languages defines art as this: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Our creative endeavors more often than not are highly personal expressions of what we think or how we feel about something. It’s an expression of what we find beauty and solace in, or a recreation of a worldview, the things that inspire us or make up feel creative. It SHOULD say something about the creator and what they find moving (in whatever direction that may be).

When we read that email above, maybe we can tell someone was trained to speak this way, probably indicating they have some form of work ethic or intelligence. That’s because of the massive amount of A/B testing done by marketing companies that tells us what sounds great for pushing a product. It’s a highly stylized way of writing that pulls from and copies thousands (if not millions) of sets of data. It works. There is not a thing wrong with finding a style you connect to and building it into your work to help it connect better with your audience in a similar way. The difference here though, is the “building it in” to your preexisting desires and joys for creating if for no other reason than that it’s just nice to know that what you work on is yours and it connects to you. It’s fulfilling in a way that creating for other’s attention isn’t always.

So the question is how to do this? I think I touched on this a little bit in my post about Where My Inspiration Comes From, where when we see something we can go “hey that’s nice, lets add it to my creative basket” instead of just pulling that one thing and using it solely. It’s hard to say “do this to be your authentic self” because one, your personality doesn’t completely exist apart from your surrounding environment, and two, everyone has their own methods. But I can tell you what I do.

My method includes surrounding myself with a bunch of pretty things that I like, then promptly forgetting all of them, being frustrated for an hour, giving up on whatever immediate notion of perfection I had, and eventually just writing in a stream of consciousness. Usually within that stream, I won’t find the words I’m looking for. I’ll start writing a sentence one way and it just feels wrong. So I’ll backspace it and go “No. That’s not for me.” That’s when I back up to where it was feeling right, and restructure from there. I have deleted entire paragraphs writing just this article because I looked at it and said “why have I used the word we 80 times” and “there is not nearly enough space here for sarcastic parenthetical asides”, so I fixed it and it better represents my train of thought for it. This article is now nothing like the outline I have been trying to sculpt it to for the past week.

You’re not going to learn what your style is until you find things you like, and put it into practice. You have to make and write things. And when you make and write things, that’s when you can say “what’s wrong with this?” and shape it to you more closely. It is okay to say “I” and express what “I” likes. We’re all human, and lots of us feel the same things. It is okay if your art doesn’t look exactly like someone else’s picture. Someone will connect when you say “I feel this way”.

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Liberty Jensen • Writer

Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.

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