Authenticity is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the blogosphere. Superstar and neophyte bloggers alike say the best way for a writer to win over an audience is with authenticity. The problem is what is authentic to one person may be completely out of character for another.
So how can you create and adhere to rules of success if the authentic "you" is the polar opposite of every rule you learn?
To Jenny Lawson, it means being brazen and forthright without fear of recrimination. To Samar Owais, it means having a profile photo that doesn't hide her hijab and religious heritage. To Seth Godin, it means being short and straight to the point, regardless of a topic's complexity. To Emily Suess, it means effortlessly mixing the professional with the personal and never apologizing for it.
But for me, I'm still not sure. I believe developing a blogging voice is a lot like becoming a great method actor. You have to live a full and rich life from which you can use to inspire and craft your characters. You have to feel a plethora of emotional states under a variety of circumstances in order to find out how to manipulate your psyche for the performance. I know it all sounds overly complicated and high-falutin', but the theory is sound.
We all have different voices inside of us that we exercise when we feel the situation calls for it. We would never speak to a judge at our hearing for a traffic violation the exact same way we speak to our friends down at the pub. We talk to our parents with a certain level of respect and masked frustration that is never present when we talk to a homeless person asking us for change.
We throw on these voices like comfortable cloaks whenever it suits us, but are any of them our authentic voices? Does code-switching make us less "real?" Or does our desire to survive unpleasant situations matter more than maintaining comfort? In the blogging world, these questions don't just disappear.
I'm not ashamed to say that in the two years since I've launched my blog here on Incandescere, I'm still trying to find my authentic voice. I'm not a stranger to backlash and pettiness. I've had people in power hold my honesty and pluck against me. I don't get to say whatever I want and damn the consequences. And no one rushes to my rescue or defends me when I stand up and speak to figures of authority.
So, at times, I do tread a line. Here and elsewhere. But don't fret. As career coach and author Carole Kanchier once said, "A career is a continuous quest for greater harmony between who you are and what you do." So for now, the Candace you see here, may not be the Candace you meet on the street or in the boardroom. But someday, she will be.
Someday, I hope to meld the many voices into one with the same fearlessness that so many bloggers seem to possess. Yet today, I'm still on my quest for that harmony. So if you and I cross paths on Pinterest, Twitter, political news forums or at a meet and greet, remember this: The authentic me has many voices. Prepare to be surprised.
Was the journey to develop your authentic blogging voice quick and effortless? Or protracted and complex? Does your voice today contradict your voice from previous blog posts?