Finding Your Voice

find-your-voiceMy throat’s been really sore the past few days. The kind of sore that radiates into your chest, makes swallowing torture, and talking a last resort.

Whenever this happens I’m reminded of the healer who once told me I had a tendency towards imbalance in my throat chakra.

This wasn’t great news for someone whose livelihood revolves around communication, but it wasn’t a total surprise. The throat chakra is sort of like the Oval Office for creative self-expression: It‘s the energy center that allows us to communicate with clarity and confidence.

It also powers our voice: Our ability to speak our truth with conviction and compassion. To express our ideas, insights, desires, and feelings without worrying about being wrong. Without fear of being judged.

On any given day, finding my voice – speaking my truth – can be hard enough without throwing a blocked chakra into the mix.

And I know I’m not alone.

The struggle to communicate real thoughts and feelings is arguably the number one reason my clients hire me. When I tell someone I’m a business writer, they often say, “I have such a hard time writing about myself and what I do.”

In my heart I believe this is less about skill and more about the fear of giving voice to what it is we honestly want to say – about our products, our services, and ourselves.

“Voice” is one of the most important elements in any piece of writing. It conveys personality and character, attitude and style. It’s the thing that draws me in to a good story – and keeps me there until the last page.

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s equally important to have a “brand voice.”

When this voice speaks your language – when it conveys your unique values and intentions with honesty and integrity – it resonates with those who speak it, too. And when you boil it all down, that’s the key to building a brand – and growing a business.

Author Neil Gaiman says, “Most of us find our own voices only after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people.” As a writer, that certainly has been my experience.

But many of us know what our voice sounds like. We use it when we believe in ourselves. When we’re comfortable with our ideas and opinions. When we’re sharing from our hearts.

Healing the throat chakra is about having the courage to use our voice even when it feels risky. It begins with having the confidence to own our story – and tell it as only we can.

The HeART of Blogging

Donna Gould Open Heart Creative 2As chief storyteller for Open Heart Creative, I just assumed I’d host a blog.

After all, blogging has its roots in storytelling. And a good blog post is a lot like a good short story: it’s entertaining and thought provoking and fairly economical in getting to the point.

Right?

Well, maybe not.

During a recent conversation about marketing with a colleague who is launching her own business, we chatted about her website. I said of course she’ll write a blog because it makes perfect sense given her personality and what she does for a living.

“Ugh!” she said so emphatically she nearly spilled her cup of tea. “Writing blog posts at my old job was the thing I hated most about marketing!” I asked why, and she mentioned things like impossibly long word counts, repetitious content, and the painstaking attention to keywords. “I know it’s important for SEO, but it’s so boring and such hard work,” she concluded.

“Boring” and “hard work” are two things that do not come to mind when I think about blogging.

The personal blog I started in 2009 was one long celebration of things that amazed, surprised and delighted me. I’ve followed many a blog – of the personal and business variety – that are interesting and informative and often inspiring. So how could something so enjoyable lose its raison d’être? Has the “business” of blogging been reduced to just another dreaded task on the To Do list?

I’m not naïve. I’m a card-carrying marketing professional and it’s my job to understand what a successful blog can do for business development. But I’m also a writer, and a voracious reader. I can’t help but feel disillusioned each time the corporate world commandeers a social media platform to help sell more toilet paper.

Blogs were not created to sell toilet paper. As I recall, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, they became popular as vehicles for sharing information. Trolling Google in search of confirmation, I found multiple definitions of the word “blog” that all boiled down to this:

A blog is basically an online journal.

In its Introduction to Blogging, WordPress, the self-described “largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world,” notes, “A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites.” (Nowhere is there any mention of improving SEO.)

I don’t know about you, but for me the words “journal” and “diary” conjure images of swirling ideas and deep reflection. They are vessels where the seeds of invention, imagination and inspiration are planted – and nurtured. Spaces where hope springs eternal and dreams take flight.

So at its heART, then, a blog is a tech tool that enables us to share our thoughts and opinions – maybe even our hopes and dreams – with others who might find them meaningful, useful, or inspiring. If this results in more toilet paper sales, so be it. But that’s not the raison d’être.

Of course you’ll be smart about growing your blog. You’ll set goals and be clear about your core business strategy. And like it or not, you’ll keep a list of your top 10 or 12 keywords handy to satisfy those pesky but essential search engines.

But if your content isn’t compelling, if what you’re sharing doesn’t resonate with readers or offer them anything of value, if you don’t love what you’re writing about – then they’re not going to care about you, your website, or your business.

At the end of its list of blogging tips for newbies, WordPress offers these words of advice: “Have fun blogging and remember, there are no rules to what you post on your blog!”

Let this to be the raison d’être for my blog.