Develop your voice – No one is born ready and with the ability to produce excellence. For every chosen profession, we all have people who we look up to or whose work inspire us to want to do more and be better. Solely because their work has found a voice—and it is loud and clear.
Earlier in your career, you may have also been at a crossroads, asking yourself if the path on which you find yourself is a good fit, and what do you need to do to make people recognise who you are and the strengths you possess.
I remember when I finally decided to step into the creative space after I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education. I would go around buying magazines, newspapers, collecting all the flyers that I could find, checking out the work of exceptional designers, watching TV ads, and taking pictures of print ads on billboards and in magazines. I loved all the ad executions because they have a distinctive voice, and I wanted that for my designs.
I can’t overemphasise that each profession has some exceptional individuals. On our way to greatness, there are several different paths to success. Whether you are a designer, writer, artist, or developer, excellence in delivery and development comes in different shades.
You may feel that the way you speak is what makes it easy for people to identify you. But far from it—the totality of your input is what makes up your voice, and that is your unique perspective, preposition, and skill you bring to the table—however, this way of recognising your voice develops over time with cautiousness and intentional doing.
In January 2013, I organised a seminar titled: You as a masterpiece. During the event, I emphasised that we don’t just become a masterpiece; it is an effort based on years of experience and a thought process. It is also a totality of a personal, collective responsibility, premised on dedication, mistakes, correction, strategic positioning and trusting God the maker of heaven and earth throughout the process.
The stages of life you go through to become a masterpiece and develop a voice within your chosen field is something to reckon with. And you can also learn from the voices of your peers and the people who have gone before you.
1. Awareness Stage
Suppose your first reason for starting a carrier is money. In that case, you are on a long haul. When you start for example as a designer or copywriter, you will struggle in the first few years to make sure that your work is good. As the years roll by, it will be evident that you still need to keep learning, even when you can see the potentials in your work.
The Awareness stage is the stage in which nothing is impossible. However, you can conceive an idea for work or your project, and during the process of mapping out the idea, get stuck without a way forward.
I have been in this stage before and have seen people give up because they do not have the right attitude and skills. During your awareness stage, it is vital to note the skills you need to build your career and grow.
2. Imitation Stage
Knowing the skills you need for your growth is pivotal to your success and becoming a voice. The art of doing is critical as you cannot sit idle to attain success. It helps if you continuously upskill to improve your tools for work.
Imitation is another strategic way to make your voice heard. Try to see what others in your space are doing, and mimic the skills of their expression. Doing this will allow you to develop the know-how to be able to create our voice. To achieve this, you need to find out who your ideal imitation voice is, and think about what you need to do daily to attain this goal.
3. ‘Define your own cool’ (DYOC) stage
As much as imitation is useful to help you find your voice—you cannot continue to do that forever. After some time, you must be able to create something that is uniquely yours—your own design flow, writing style, singing style, etc. ‘Define your own cool’.
During this stage, you can create your style and put your work out there with total confidence. I have personally been in this stage, and there is a very thin line that separates you from getting fixated on imitation. I have had to push myself to create my style, thereby enabling me to add my unique voice and perspective to my design work.
4. ‘Stagnation and Boredom’ (S&B) Stage
You want to protect your tools of work and want to be known for your unique performance.
The stagnation stage is a dangerous place to be in when you feel you have arrived, and you no longer feel compelled to upskill and be better.
A lot of people have sacrificed their voices on this altar of Stagnation and Boredom. One of the ways to step out of this stage is to remember the main reason why you sought to develop a voice when you started.
You can also start all over again by:
- Define your own cool
- Repeat 1 – 3
I passionately believe that during this stage, you do not need to give up when you should be growing and finding inspiration. If you desire to be a voice, you must be brave, remove self-doubt and create a board meeting in your mind where you can present all ideas without prejudice.
You will make mistakes during this stage, but that is OK. Brace yourself, correct your mistakes and move forward.