Have you ever read an older piece you’ve written and wondered why you sound so unlike your everyday self? As writers, it’s tempting to hide our true voice, or keep certain aspects of our lives or our life experiences out of our stories because we’re afraid of how readers might perceive us. This is a form of perfectionism, and it can influence how and what we’re willing to share on the page.
When we focus too much on how we’re perceived in our writing, it can keep us from meeting our readers' needs and allowing them to connect with our story. Writer, podcaster, and pastor Osheta Moore knows this temptation too well. She sat down with hope*writers to discuss how she’s learned to embrace her full, whole self as a writer, and how we can do the same.
Osheta knows how hard it can be to tackle difficult topics. Her readers look to her to help them discover how their everyday lives intersect with peacemaking, and how they can live out peacemaking in meaningful ways. She often writes on difficult topics like conflict and race from her perspective as a Black woman, author, and leader.
Regardless of our message, we need to resist hiding the aspects of our lives that bring our unique perspective to our readers. We have a responsibility to bring our full selves to our work as we share our stories. Here are a few tips on how to do that well.
If you want readers to connect with your writing, you need to live a life that is integrated on and off the page. Describing who she wants to be as a writer, Osheta says, “I want to be my full self, the self that I love, the self the people in my life love, the self readers love.” There’s no distinction between how readers see her and how the people in her real life see her — the story she lives and the story she tells are one and the same.
We should fully express who we are both in our intimate relationships and in community with our readers as writers with integrity. It’s a disservice to readers to hold back on aspects of who we are and the life stories that shape us.
Strive to be the same complex, whole, integrated person wherever readers encounter you — whether on social media, at a live event, or through a blog or books.
Another aspect of bringing your whole self to your story is writing how you speak. When you communicate with readers across publishing platforms, not only should you bring your full self, you should also bring a consistent voice.
Osheta has lived all over the United States, and over the years, she has inevitably picked up local vocabulary from each location. This is reflected in her work, where she strives to write in the same way she speaks, peppering in the language of her everyday life.
We want to sound consistent across all publishing platforms for our readers, but we also want the people in our lives to recognize our voice in our work. When she wrote her book, Shalom Sistas, Osheta kept in mind that she wants her daughters to read it someday. She wants them to recognize the sound of her voice, even when it’s written on the page.
In addition to bringing a consistent voice to your work, it’s also important to bring your own embodied experiences to your writing. Osheta specifically encourages writers of color to write from the skin they’re in.
“I can’t be my full, whole self [as a writer]," she says, "if I can’t talk about race.”
Skin color, gender, physical health, and any number of other bodily experiences inform who we are as writers. Stories told from your own skin make for richer, more integrated writing, regardless of the form your writing takes.
Your body and how you live in it give you a unique perspective from which to create. Writing from the skin you’re in will help you remain authentic, and it will bring depth to your storytelling.
Our goal as writers is to serve our readers with authenticity and integrity. The more we incorporate our everyday lives into our work, the more our readers will connect with our message. When we give our full selves to our work, we honor ourselves, our stories, and most importantly, our readers.
Want to learn more about what it means to write with using your unique voice and experience? Click here for free access to our hour-long conversation with Osheta and take one step toward balancing the art of writing with the business of publishing.