Friday, January 11, 2013

finding your writer’s voice


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2012 was my first full year of blogging and I thought I should take a moment to reflect on the ebb and flow of this blog.

Although I’m officially listed in Blogger in January 2011, I never actually blogged until months later. Instead, I wasted a lot of 2011 playing around in Adobe Photoshop with my header and avoiding the intimidating act of clicking on the “publish” button because on some level, I simply wasn’t ready.

Even now when I read most of my early posts… I cringe. I see lots of words, but there’s no Me there. Not really. Do you know that feeling? When you show up someplace new with your tight, pleasant smile, but you’re not fully there? Not because you’re intentionally holding back. But sometimes you simply have to gaze over the crowd, meet a few like-minded folks. And figure out if you going to stay awhile.

Outwardly my early posts resemble ordinary-looking blurbs with lovely photos and helpful information but it all was delivered in that safe, neutral, Stepford Wives tone that tells me I was floundering.

I don’t consider myself a safe, neutral kind-of-gal, and inside I was struggling to find my own writing voice.



I was grappling with that mysterious, unquantifiable quality in writing that simply can’t be faked. It’s the je ne sais quo of one’s writing voice, the essence of authenticity. It’s like hearing the unique tone and inflections of your voice on paper. And I’m learning that it happens when you let your guard down and take a few risks.

When you peek out from behind the grammatical correctness.

It’s not a question of HOW personal you get on your blog. I’m not talking about getting drunk on one’s words and busting beyond one’s healthy boundaries, so after you publish a post you’re left feeling raw and remorseful.

I’m talking about writing in a voice that expresses your distinctness. I’m talking about embracing our imperfections as part of our brand and writing from that place. Because I believe the beauty of our writing is found in our striking uniqueness; in the lines of our face, the turns and twists of our lives, and from the real-life characters we’ve met.


Anne Lamott says that the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. And trying to write in someone else’s style is like wearing somebody else’s bright and pretty clothing. It might initially feel safe and comforting but it’s not you. And getting a crush on another blogger’s style and trying to capture the truth of your experience in her language and rhythm “will remove you one step farther away from what you know and what you have seen.”  (bird by bird, Lamott 1994)

Which would be so sad. Because our truth and our own life experience is what we have to offer the world.

It’s our own brand of authenticity.

It’s the difference between the beauty of a random Miss America or the beauty of a Scarlet Johansson.


I’ve discovered that blogging is a lot like real life. It’s easy to look around and make comparisons. To stumble on a blog and to be immediately smitten. To get a crush on somebody based on their popularity and the zillion followers that they have. I’ve even seen comments left on a post that are actually about the blogger’s prettiness.

And I’m not judging. I’m just observing the ways that we get distracted from our own worth.

I guess in the end, my blog is a work in progress just like me. Against the conventional wisdom of blogging I don’t have a niche. I'm in love with creating things, and what I call the Zen of home decorating. So I blog about things like my newly painted office. Beautiful tablescapes. And lighter things.

But I also blog about Life. Mothering. Happiness and Letting go. I do this enough to guarantee that I don’t actually fit into any delineated category; I’m not strictly a home design blog, nor do I fit into the real writer’s circles, so I’ve recently stopped wringing my hands and worrying about fitting into any particular niche. And I seem to be happier that way.

I do want to hold myself to one standard however. Whatever I blog about, I want to be myself. I’m too old to pretend I’m somebody else.

I want to write with my own voice. This one.

Because it’s the only one I’ve got.

And in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy myself right here, in this crowded room of talented bloggers and I’ll sip my cocktail and if someone comes up and we hit it off.

Well, that’s a wonderful thing.




2012 Gwen Moss blog posts that were kindly mentioned by other bloggers

the amazing power of Hope

 the blog post that will make you happy

gorgeous Pumpkin Centerpiece: how to

Be My Guest (Edgar Allen Poe tablescape)

Mean Girls

extraordinary kindness of a stranger

extraordinary kindness of a stranger: the conclusion

the angry letter 

10 things you should know about Chalkboard Art

black and white Halloween entrance

10 Halloween things

on happiness and waiting for something you want

my painted dropcloth: how to

My Fall foyer

My simple Fall mantel

my Holiday Home

my Home


I’m linking at these special places:


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Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap said...

beautifully written!

Rhubarbarians said...

Oh boy, SO much good stuff in this post. As a semi-new blogger, I am realizing just how difficult it is to express yourself in an honest and genuine way. And the comparison thing, don't even get me started. How can we not have a thin line between inspired and envious.
Lovely post!

Unknown said...

I'm so happy we've hit it off, Leslie ;-)
I know what you mean about your blog being a work in progress I feel the same with my blog and with me too...I guess you're never too old to keep learning and growing...I won't sip a cocktail but I'll sip a glass of champagne to you and your wonderful blog!

ℳartina @ Northern Nesting said...

Well I'm very happy to have met you through blogging!! I'll have my 2 year bloggiversary next month and I feel like my blog is still a work in progress! Awesome post Leslie!

Unknown said...

Another gorgeous post Leslie, I was heading for bed but knew I just had to stop and read your post!

I think it takes a while you find your voice when you you, I look back at my early posts - when actually I didn't really "write" much at all...and I can how timid I was. And even now I don't feel super-confident about it....but my favourite posts are all "me" and I love that blogging has done that for me, that's what makes blogs such a special place....not only it is a powerful thing for others to read our work but it's also such a powerful and empowering thing for us. In many ways, I have found myself through it and grown at the same time.

It's all good as they say :)

Ladies Holiday said...

I loved reading well said and so true. Bird by Bird is exceptional! In some ways it is nice to have the blog to chronicle our growth as writers/bloggers. Cheers!

Debra@CommonGround said...

I consider you a kindred spirit, my friend. You're much more eloquent than I, but like you, I've learned that I need to be me. I'm like this in real life tho, I want to cut through all the bs and find the real person. Blogging makes it easy to try to hide, to try to put up a facade, or become someone else. I don't have the energy for that. Love this post, Leslie, you are a very wise woman.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Leslie, especially the words at the end...I know my favorite posts are the ones when I admit failure, mistakes, and the general realness of life, not little Miss Perfection {which I am so not}
I will remember your wisdom daily {I hope}

Katie @ Wildwood Creek said...

Well said, and I love Anne Lamott.

Jeanne Henriques said...

...and it is a beautiful voice Leslie, do not change a thing about you, we love you just as you are. Keep writing my friend, I could not imagine my Inbox without you. From someone who threw grammatical correctness out the window years ago. Love kindred spirits and you are one of

Kisha Jaggers said...

New Follower!! Found you through the Aloha Friday Blog Hop! Love your blog.. When you have a minute, stop by and say hi ..and if you like what you see.. follow back! Happy New Year! K Jaggers

Travel With Lulu said...

Wow, really powerful! Congratulations - and look at all those sites you've appeared on already. The experience (and growth) of blogging is difficult to describe to non-bloggers,don't you think?

Sew a Fine Seam said...

Amen. Good stuff. And can I be so bold as to ask how you picked 'Gwen Moss' for your blog name? I love it and would love to know how it came to be :) Have a blessed weekend!

Danielle said...

Love this post! So glad we found your blog! We are new followers and stopped by from the Aloha Blog Hop! Have a fabulous weekend!

Unknown said...

and this is why you're one of my favs.

Monica said...

Leslie, I love love love this post and aren't we all humongous works in progress? I just noticed by blog in your sidebar and am truly honored - since I have always seen your space as a source of inspiration and guidance in mothering. I'm also in love with your decorating style! I hope you always continue to share here and kuddos for being so honest. xx - Monica

must love junk said...

I love this-a very thought provoking post!

Hanna said...

HI there! I'm Hanna. I'm your newest follower!!! Lovely space you have here! I hope you have a great weekend! You can find me in my little corner anytime at

xoxoxo Hanna

Kristi said...

Wow Leslie! I could have written this myself, except not as eloquently!! I, like you, have gotten caught up from time to time in the "popularity" contest the blog world can sometimes have, which reminded me of jr high school! And I have even got to the point of not posting sometimes, because I figure why bother. Then I WAKE UP and remember I started this blog for ME and to remember my family and life with an online scrapbook of sorts. I love looking back through the years ( I started in 2007) even when I hardly posted in a year, I can still go back and look.
I, also like you, blog about everything. Not just home. I blog about my kids, husband, family, activities and of course decorating. I know some are more interested in some posts more than others (when I see the stats). But again, first and foremost this blog is for me and my family to look back on. My kids love reading it, which makes it all worth it :)
Glad I found your blog! :)

Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours said...

Leslie, I just found your blog. It seems you've been eavesdropping on the conversations in my head! I have an eclectic blog voice, too, and it's easy to get drawn into needing to find a niche. I'm learning that contentment comes when I write from the heart ... because that's the story I know best! I look forward to visiting again soon to read more of your story. May 2013 be a wonderful year for you!

lilliesandsilk said...


I found your blog through the Aloha Blog Hop and I'm your newest follower:) What a great post and enjoy your weekend.

Lillies & Silk

Lori said...

Love this ~ it's perfect! We have to kick back and be ourselves because no one else can do that for us.

ms.composure said...

stumbled on your blog via the blog hop at:

LOVING this post!!
You shared a ton of great information!

New follower via email! :-)

Anonymous said...

I TOTALLY get what you were saying, in each and every well placed word. Gonna stop looking for like minded people at and start hanging out more with you folks.

Michelle Longo said...

Finding our own voice is so hard sometimes. But knowing when you're not using it is half the battle!

Ginny Marie said...

Finding your real voice can be a challenge! After 5 years of blogging, I'm still experimenting. :)

Gia said...

2012 was my first "full" year's weird that my voice has changed a bit since I started (noticeable to me, at least). It's tricky. And getting more readers (not that I am swimming in them, but more than 0 I started with) actually sometimes makes it harder for me to express myself

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

I loved this blog immediately. Perhaps yes we are all a little awed by feeling so public in the beginning, but then it almost becomes a network of friends. On voice: I also think I was shaky at first, and boring! Now I think I've tightened up and know better how to hone in to the topic at hand. Blogging is great training I think xxcat

Debe said...

Commenting again from Cedar Hill....I love a quote I heard from our priest in church one day about his singing voice...."God gave me this voice, he should have to hear it!" I think we are all unique and need to embrace who we are. I am still trying but I love that quote 'cause I can't sing at ALL! I am enjoying your voice. I have a blog but haven't no voice at all. Don't have anything I think is worth posting about plus it take lots of time!!

Leslie Harris said...

I always respond to comments by email, but I feel compelled to respond to your comment right here Debe. Because maybe other readers feel similar. First, I want you to know that it means so much that you took the time to share your thoughts here. I'm so glad to meet you.
But please tell me it's not true. The line about you not having anything worth posting. Because if that's your opinion about your self, it really bothers me. Maybe you're just joking? Because if not, I will have to seriously disagree with you. I want you know that YOU absolutely have a voice that is every bit as interesting and worthy of hearing as anyone online. In fact, I would love for you to begin to post on that blog of yours, because you'll slowly discover parts of yourself you didn't know were there. And your confidence will grow and it will get less scary, I promise. And when and if you do start writing, I would love to read your posts and cheer you on Debe. Because believe me, if I can do this, so can you. So keep in contact, please. And let me know when you start writing because you'll have an instant follower. Me. And I make that promise for anyone out there who feels that "I've got no voice at all." I'd be happy to follow your blog.
Leslie (aka Gwen Moss)

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