Yes, That Really Is Your Voice

Not so very long ago there were these things called tape recorders. Many of you who are older than thirty probably remember these devices. And I’d wager that most of you remember listening to your recorded voice at one time or another and thinking, “That’s what I sound like?”

I’m not sure this is a pleasant experience for anyone. It’s definitely worse if you hear yourself singing–those church or school performances you thought you’d nailed but then CRINGE, oh, that was most certainly not the right note right there. Or there.

In our own heads we sound one way, but the world at large experiences us in a different way. And if you’re going by numbers, the world has you beat about 7,000,000,000 to 1.

The same is true with our writing, I believe. To me, certain sentences may sound lyrical and fraught with meaning, while to another they may sound clunky and trite. The opposite is also true. At times we write things that sound common to us and yet they may strike another in such a profound way that they print them up and tack them to their wall or put them on their refrigerator as a reminder.

Here’s what I think you should do with this little observation:

If you’re going about blithely assuming everyone reads your writing the way you do, the way you intended, take some time to examine it from another’s perspective. Are there ways you could make your meaning more clear? Are there ways you are closing off access inadvertently? Are you talking down to people? Are you assuming your reader is more knowledgeable about your subject than they actually are? How can you try to make others hear your voice as you do?

Conversely, if you can’t even bear to share your work with others for fear that they will see you for the hack you are, can you step out in courage and faith and let a few friends read your work? Isn’t it possible that you don’t sound as bad as you think?

I have a number of kind “no thank yous” filed away that tell me that not everyone reads my writing the way I intend it to be read. I can let that bother me, let it beat me down until I give up. Or I can learn from them. I can work to fix the fixable things so that my writing is read by another they same way it came out of my head in the first place.

Remember, perception is reality…except when it isn’t.