A Writing Lesson About Voice

Don’t write like a textbook. Or a corporate shill. Write like a human being and say something real.

Alright class, here’s two articles about the same thing. One by me. One by a professional writer. Can you guess which article was written by someone paid to write it?


Brands lean on Spotify Wrapped idea

Spotify’s viral year-in-review Spotify Wrapped is serving as something of a marketing blueprint for a cluster of brands. Since the streaming giant launched the personalized playlists and pages in 2016, brands ranging from GrubHub to Nintendo and The Washington Post have hopped on the trend and offered their customers a personalized look at their data and activities from the year. But the key to a good “Wrapped”, Axios says, is showing users an entertaining amount of their data without “creeping people out” about just how much information is stored by these companies.


Unoriginal Billionaires Attempt to Clone Spotify Wrapped Idea 

Spotify’s viral year-in-review Spotify Wrapped turned corporations’ data, creative, and marketing departments into late-nights-at-the-office-holiday frenzies as rich, old, out-of-touch businessmen demanded their company steal the “end of year thing from the music company they saw on the news” and find a way to “adopt it for their customers.”

Ever since Spotify deployed the “Wrapped” idea in 2016, businesses across the globe have copied the marketing tactic, but none have reached the level of success of the music streaming giant. 

Interestingly enough, corporations are harvesting your data  – things you listen to, games you play, websites you visit, what you order, what you read, what you watch – and they spew it back to you as a gift. It’s not even wholesome, despite being disguised as a thank you. It’s just another way to get more eyes on their product. More eyes means more potential sales. It’s a business’s way of saying “sorry that I know more about you than your wife does, here’s the data on how you escaped reality this year.” 

Well, thank you business! You’ve made my life better.

How about I thank you data stealing businesses for allowing me to sell my brain’s way of thinking in exchange for some dopamine? 

You know, rather than be upset at the invasion of privacy and horrifying effects of the crime committed against my mind, I’ll share all the data that was unethically collected by businesses with my social media followers.


Now everyone will know I’m a Swiftie. 

No disrespect to the writer of either article. Especially me. It’s not about being right or wrong. Whether the writing is good or bad. It’s about perspective. And writing with a voice.

Obviously, one piece is able to use satire and exaggeration, while the other has to stick to “the facts.” That’s what professional writers do. Allegedly. But does writing in corporate speak count as writing? It’s a voice, for sure. A lame, robotic, monotone one. And that type of writing certainly helps a writer get paid, but there’s no soul in those words. No real human thoughts. Corporate entities are the subjects of those sentences. Why bother talking about the people who make up the businesses and corporations? The ones with the ideas? The people putting in the work to help brands grow? It makes no sense to me. I’ve never seen Nike work overtime, but I’ve watched a single father of five do it.

Critics and insecure writers will say a story about people won’t get clicks. That kind of story doesn’t sell. There won’t be enough engagement on the piece. It’ll offend the wrong people. Whatever that means. And to that, I’ll say most of what I read is dead on the page. Just like the two million other articles posted on the hour, every hour. All of it reads like failed politically correct dad humor. Nothing but a content factory of stories written and paid for by businesses for businesses. 

It’s not the writers’ fault for this mess. Most are suffocating under impossible deadlines and poverty-level wages. Under these conditions, it’s hard to find an original thought. There’s no time. Just more content. And more content now. Pump it out. Don’t think. Get it out. As many articles as possible. As quickly as possible. Hurry up. More now.

Any person can regurgitate business language into a Word doc. It’s repeating what you heard from some rich guy or spokesperson and “transcribing it into your own words.” That’s not writing. It’s copying and pasting thoughts from one mouth and shotgunning them to the masses. Usually to the detriment of the readers.

There’s no dance in writing like that. No heart. No soul. 

You want voice in your writing? Try writing something real. That’s what every writer should strive for. Say what’s in your heart. Don’t be afraid of it. Let it out. It takes time, but that’s okay. The words matter. Every single one of them. It’s up to you how you’ll use them.