• Dana L. Butler

On Uncovering Our Writing Voice and Being In Process

Okay y’all,

I’m hailing, finally, from the aftermath of nearly 2 weeks of sickness.  I’m feeling better by the day.  Moving from sickness-survival mode back toward normal.

Spiritually, it’s been a rich season for me despite the sickness.  One I’m looking forward to sharing in more detail in the coming weeks as I continue to process.

For today, I’m excited to bring you the final installment in my “What I’ve Learned in 1 Year of {serious} Blogging” series, in which I’ll share what I’ve learned on my personal journey of uncovering, developing, and settling into my writing voice.

If you’ve missed previous parts of this series, you can get caught up right here.

A Journey Of Self-In-Christ Discovery

Truly, this is about uncovering so much more than just my writing voice.  It’s actually been a journey of more deeply discovering who I am and settling more into being my true self-in-Christ.  Learning to live from my core.  Becoming confident in the ways God’s designed me–on the inside.  The ways He wants to express Himself through my uniqueness.

Like every post in this series, what I’m sharing here is my personal process.  It’s not a complete picture of everything you could possibly do to aid in uncovering your voice.  But I pray it’s helpful to you who are still in this process.

And really?  We are all still in process.  I believe this learning to live out of who we are in Him–is a journey of becoming that won’t end until we see Him face-to-face.

In the meantime, here are a few keys to my voice discovery process.

Prerequisites To Uncovering and Settling Into Your Voice

  1. A growing confidence.  Confidence in who you are in Christ, and who He is in you.  A gut-level knowing that your value is determined by the blood of Jesus.  Not by your writing.  Increasingly living out of this confidence in your true identity will ensure that you aren’t writing for approval (God’s or man’s), but out of a place of security in His approval.  This is a process that gives and takes, ebbs and flows.  We don’t ever “arrive.”  But we do grow toward confident wholeness.  The more confident we are in Him, the freer our heart and the more our authentic voice will be released.

  2. An okayness with the process.  Peace with whatever it looks like, however long it takes to uncover your voice, build your audience, become more fully alive, give expression to your passions and callings.  A willingness to walk with Him on this journey instead of running ahead of  Him.  This requires a deep trust in the unique path and pace God has for you.

  3. An interior life.  Not being too busy or too afraid to be aware of what’s going on in your deep places.  An intentional living of your interior life before God.  Living known by Him, and seeking to intimately know Him.  Self-knowing and Christ-knowing go hand-in-hand.  Without deeply knowing ourselves in Him, our heart and our true voice will never be fully unlocked.

My Voice-Discovery Process

  1. Imitation.  I’d bet every beginning writer does this to some degree.  At the beginning of my intentional writing journey, I imitated the voices of writers I admired.  In copying their voices, I was expressing my honest heart, so I wasn’t inauthentic.  But I also wasn’t being my deepest self because my heart was coming through the filter of someone else’s voice.  Looking back on my earlier writing, I struggle not to be embarrassed by it.  But truly, my “imitation phase” was a legitimate, valuable part of my process of learning who I am as a writer.

  2. Writing for approval. I may not have been aware I was doing this.  But when I read my older writing, I sense this subtle undercurrent of “please notice me, please like me, and PLEASE receive from Jesus through my words!”  I was writing in a style I thought people wanted to hear.  I wasn’t resting in Jesus, wasn’t trusting Him to express Himself through me.  Again, I wasn’t secure in the value spoken over me by the cross.  I was looking to draw people to myself more than to point them to Him.  Sadly, I’m still guilty of this at times.  On the days I struggle to remember the practical reality of the Gospel–its implications for my life.

  3. Exploring.  I got some education.  [This after having been told in no uncertain terms I had a lot to learn.]  Took Jeff Goins’ writing course.  Dug into the concept of voice within writing and figured out what it meant–in general, and for me personally.  I sat at the cyber-feet of people with more experience than I had, asked questions, and gleaned.  For this gal who’d previously considered herself a pretty good writer, this was a hugely needed step toward humility.

  4. Practice.  On the piano, if I practice scales and technique, I’m more fluent and free to play whatever my heart feels.   Writing practice is the same.  I’ve practiced technique.  Hammered out grammar.  Sentence structure.  [The more you’re intentional to get all this technical stuff right, the freer you’ll be to actually BREAK “rules” at times for the sake of staying true to your voice.] Get feedback from someone more experienced.  Practice writing with pen and paper.  Do free-write exercises.  And this is KEY: Don’t hold back.  Practice exploring your depths as you free-write.  Honing your technique and exploring your deepest heart in a “practice” setting will free you to be more fully you when it’s the real deal and your audience is watching–er, reading.

  5. Settling in.   Subtly, you’ll begin to feel comfortable in your own words like you do in your favorite jeans.  You’ll settle into your voice, your style.  See your guts poured out on screen and realize that yes, this is an accurate depiction of your heart and it actually sounds like you.

A Side (but not really side) Note: Digging Deep and Wrapping Words

And friend?  That thing that you’ve been sensing way down deep?  That vague-yet-quite-possibly-important thought that you haven’t had time or energy to dig up and try to articulate?

DO IT. Keep digging.

You’ll find yourself now more able to unearth your under-the-surface insights–the gems that so often get brushed over when your dryer buzzes or your internal critic convinces you those thoughts aren’t logical anyway.

Go after those thoughts.  Dig till you grab hold of them.  Wrestle them up to the surface and wrangle them and wrap words around them.

The more you practice mining those deep heart places, the more your voice will surface.  As will your true heart.

On Starting Small

Y’all, every. single. step of this process is valid.  The imitating others’ voices and the writing for approval and all of it.

We are all in process with our God who gently leads us on each step of our own unique journey.  This goes for our writing journeys and our life journeys.

He’s not in a hurry, dragging us impatiently along our paths.  God’s leadership is gentle and patient, and intimacy with Him is forged in the process.  

Despise not the small beginnings (Zech. 4:10).  Despise not the older writing that’s embarrassing when you look back over it.  Despise not the days of 10 or 50 or 200 followers.

[Let it be known–I am preaching to myself here as much as to anyone else.]

Let’s embrace our processes, friends.   Wherever you’re at, it’s okay to be there.  It’s good to be there.  Because He’s there.

And when we embrace the small steps of our journey, we find companionship with Christ along the way.

I so long for that.

And really?  This is what this whole exploration of what I’ve learned in a year [and 3 months] of {serious} blogging has been about, anyway.  This deeper knowing of my true self-in-Him.  This small-step-by-small-step moving forward with Him, learning to trust His pace and more deeply encounter myself and Him in the process.

To all you dear ones who’ve made this trek with me–once again, can I just say thank you?  I’m so blessed by God’s tender leadership, and by how sweetly He loves me through you guys.


As always, if you’ve appreciated what you’ve read here, could I invite you to pass it on?

And if you’re reading via email or a reader and you’d like to comment or explore the blog further, consider this my holler to “c’mon on over!”

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