It’s as common as a re-run of The Big Bang Theory.
You sit feeling stifled by responsibility, political correctness, or the fact those bitches at the school drop-off will have an opinion on what you write.
So you edit yourself down. You struggle to get the words out because you’re holding them back behind the floodgates (the ones that are usually cracked open after your third glass of chardonnay on a Wednesday night).
You tell your personality to shut it and sit in the corner, and in the process, little parts of that personality start playing a looooooong game of Hide and Seek, without you knowing you’re supposed to go looking.
Next time you feel like you can’t write the way you talk – or that you have to place a filter over your thoughts before you translate them onto the page – use one of these personality resuscitation methods. Stat.
1. Write whatever it is you’re trying to write as an email to a dear friend who has asked for your help.
2. Dictate as if you’re on the phone with a friend and then type it out from there. Even better, use an app like Dragon. I’ve been playing around with the voice recorder in Google Docs lately and it works surprisingly well (FYI it’ll censor swearing, though!).
3. Dig into your sent emails – not the boring work ones, but the ones where you’ve been giving out advice to a friend – and really take notice of the language you use.
4. Do a quick poll of your friends and ask them to describe your personality in three words. Let those words be your anchors when you know you need to shake off that corporate cloak.
5. Analyse a sentence or paragraph in your writing where you felt you had to go ‘safe’ (for fear of being attacked, losing your job, whatever it might be!). Write it again, then underneath, write what you really wish you’d said.
6. Ask a friend to read over your work – a real, no-holds-barred friend, ideally not someone in the same industry as you.
7. Record yourself reading your piece of writing out loud and feel where the unnatural parts are – where does it stop flowing and sound like Suzy-got-a-stick-up-her-butt?
8. Look to writers you admire – ones that really put their heart and personality into their prose. How do you feel them in their words? Really analyse which words or stylistic patterns make them stand out, then look to do the same in your work (in your own kick-ass style, of course).
9. Write a list of all the things you want to be known for.
10. Write a list of all the things you don’t want to be known for. (Now stick both those lists up above your computer or save ‘em to your phone so you can reflect on them when you’re having a stiff copy moment.
11. Try video instead. It doesn’t have to be slick. Start with Snapchat, do a live broadcast on Facebook or just film yourself on your laptop. Even better if you know it’ll never see the light of day – then you can really let fly.
12. Give yourself a break (you know, the actually put some pants on and get outside the house and breathe kind of break).
13. Take to Twitter like it’s 2007.
14. Start writing what you really want to say on an anonymous blog. Or, you know, go old school with a journal and pen.
15. Allow yourself to have an opinion.
16. Get cynical. There’s already enough bullshit online, you don’t want to be responsible for adding to the festering pile.
17. Write as though you’re writing to a five year old.
18. Imagine yourself as 80-year-old you, looking back on your life. What do you wish you’d said?
19. Read or listen to something or someone that makes you laugh.
20. Watch a movie with a powerhouse lead. I just watched Jennifer Lawrence own it in Joy on a flight back from the States and self-belief is EVERYTHING.
21. Channel Beyonce. #nuffsaid
22. Stop asking yourself if it’s good enough and just press publish – refinement of your voice comes from consistency and perseverance. Not in one completely polished blog post or email. Remember, if you connect with even one person, you’ve made a difference.
23. Face the fear and tell it to go fuck itself. You’ve got this.
Do you have any other prompts you use to inject your personality into your writing? I’m always on the hunt for more.