elitefts™ Sunday Edition

My log assignment today is to write something on the topic of voice, so I thought it’d be a good idea to cover this in the context of something I know a little bit about: Writing, and your ability to market yourself as an industry professional while not coming off as unintelligent or douche-y.
Every writer, professional or otherwise, has a voice. If you look around the industry, or at the training logs and articles on this site, you’ll see lots of different types of voices. Some people write in a very dry, scientific style. Others are completely off-the-cuff and informal. Still others aren’t really used to writing at all, and it’s obvious that they’re trying to be way too formal and official.

And then there’s Harry Selkow, who has his own separate deal going, but that’s a topic for a different day.

Either way, you’ve probably noticed this, and if you didn’t know before, you now know what the name for it is. It’s your writing voice, and if you’re a regular reader of the logs on this site, you can probably identify who’s writing what simply by examining their writing style and figuring out whose “voice” you’re reading.

If you’re trying to find your own way in this industry as an expert who wants to be published, there are a few things you need to do when it comes to your writing voice.

First, you need to figure out who your audience is, and what they’re looking for. In the case of EliteFTS, our audience is very diverse, encompassing everything from professional S/C coaches to personal trainers to CEOs of multimillion dollar conglomerates who don’t want to train like pussies. We all have one thing in common when we come here—we want to learn more about this subject matter—but the way to get people from point A (abject ignorance) to point B (a working knowledge of what you’re trying to get across) won’t be accomplished the same way with everyone across the board.

I’ll write about this from my own perspective as a reader here. When I’m looking for a piece of information, I want to get that information from people who know what they’re talking about. That much is obvious. Past that, however, I need a mix of a few things. I’ve read my share of research and academic studies, but to be honest with you, I’d rather go to a trusted source and have them break it down for me in a form I can use with my players than plow through the academic stuff myself. From that guy, I need a few things:

1. He needs to make the material less dry and show me that he identifies with me, what I need, and what I’m trying to do with it.

2. He needs to walk the fine line between being “funny” and being a “flat-out douchebag.”

In other words, if something is completely dry and academic and doesn’t show me any real-world value, I’m going to be a little skeptical of the author’s experience. In contrast, if the author goes on and on with smartassed CrossFit-style humor and jokes about himself, that’s going to steer me away from his writing, too.

If you’re able to get your material across in an intelligent manner while throwing in a few funny lines about the subject matter (and not yourself, because we don’t know you personally), then you’re definitely on to something, and you’re on your way to finding your voice.

The next thing you need to do applies to the humorous aspect of writing. If you have kids, or you’ve ever been around little kids for any length of time, you know what happens when they get a humorous reaction out of an adult: They’ll try the same move, over and over again, thinking they’re going to get the same laugh track out of that adult. Meanwhile, we thought their funny thing was funny for about five seconds or so, and we’re already on to thinking about our divorce papers or our taxes while they’re busy reenacting the same joke for the twentieth time.

With a lot of inexperienced writers, I see this same pattern. They’ll come up with a line they think is funny, and they’ll be so pleased with themselves that an entire article will turn into a horrific standup comedy routine instead of a fitness or nutrition piece.

There’s a very easy way to explain this. When I was in college, I took a couple of economics classes. In every freshman economics class, you learn about something called the Law of Diminishing Returns, and one of my professors had a terrific way of explaining this to us. Maybe I only thought it was “terrific” because he used beer as his teaching example, but whatever. He got his point across.

The Law of Diminishing Returns works like this (using MY drinking numbers...scale this down if you’re a lightweight):

Let’s say you’ve bought a case of beer, and you drink two right away. You get a little buzz on, and you feel pretty good. Your friends come over, and you have three or four more. After that, you’re feeling really good. Three or four more after that, and you’re flying. Everything is awesome, your inhibitions are gone, you’re talking a mile a minute, and the world looks awesome from every angle.

Now you’re up to about a twelve pack, and you don’t want to stop, so you have a few more. They don’t do shit for you, and you feel the same as you did an hour ago. At this point, maybe you’re in Pittsburgh hanging out with your buddy Jeff Moyer, and he decides he wants to show you a German beer hall where, for $20, they’ll sell you a 40 ounce bottomless beer stein.

You’re already on about 15 beers here, you’re being asked to slam another three, and you can’t not do it, because you know he’ll plaster it all over the internet if you tap out.

So you work your way through it, and you feel like shit while you’re doing it—and you feel even worse afterward.

Those last three beers after that twelve pack, plus that last 40 ounces you drank in the German place? That’s the back end of the curve, and you can equate that to those last five bad jokes you tried to throw out there when you’re writing. What you need to understand about writing is that one good joke doesn’t mean you’re on a roll. It just means you wrote something funny, in isolation. Appreciate the moment, then quietly walk away. That way, people will say, “Wow, that guy’s really funny, but he also has enough sense to know he’s not a comedian. And shit, his article really taught me something!”

That’s the best kind of voice for the articles you write: Neither so dry and humorless that we think we’re reading a medical chart, nor so filled with bad jokes that we all want to punch you in the face.

Now go pick a topic and try that approach for yourself.


Angry Coach