Do You Sound Like Yourself?
Miles Davis once said, “Man, sometimes it takes a long time to sound like yourself.”
It’s so true. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked back at my old writing and thought: Yeesh! I really wrote that?
I even felt that today about an article I wrote two months ago. I’ll probably say it about this one someday. Of course, I can’t usually tell as I’m writing that what I’m writing doesn’t sound like me. But later it’s so obvious—that I was trying too hard to sound smart or funny in order to impress people.
Reading this quote by Miles Davis was so comforting when I first came upon it. It reminded me that I’m not alone. Even the best artists throughout history have struggled through the process of revealing their true selves to the world.
So what can we do to sound more like ourselves? The answer seems so simple. Don’t try so hard. Just be yourself. Simple. Easy. And real. Why is that so hard?
It’s hard when some part of us feel like it’s not OK to just be ourselves. Like it’s not enough. Like we need to put on a show or prove our worth. But the more we create, share, and improve our art based on feedback, the more we find that it’s not only OK for us to sound like ourselves, but it’s also what people want. It’s when we’re not being ourselves that jokes fall flat, writing sounds terrible, and performances don’t feel real. When we’re most relaxed and allow ourselves to be the most striped down, genuine version of ourselves, it’s easier for people to connect with us. People won’t be moved by what we create if what we’re sharing isn’t coming from who we really are.
People want the real you. They want your weird, dark, quirky, and shining sides. If you’re working on a script or book, a good way to see if it sounds genuine is to curl up in bed (or somewhere relaxing) with draft in hand and read it out loud. Does it sound like how you’d say it to your best friend? If not, say it out loud like you would, and then write that down. If that still doesn’t feel right, ask a friend, or ask a kid. They have a keen sense of when someone is being authentic and usually don’t feel the need to lie about it, so they’ll be honest.
If you realize it still doesn’t sound genuine, try not to get disheartened. It’s just an opportunity to strip away the pretense, even further, and continue whittling yourself down to your most essential self. It’s what we want most from you.