As a creative writer, I never really got the obsession with voice.
Voice was just how you wrote…wasn’t it? Different people had different voices. That made sense and seemed 100% normal to me.
Then again, I never struggled with voice. I could always write distinctively in my fiction, and I never questioned how I wrote or what it sounded like.
I just wrote, and let the words flow out of me as I needed to.
In my marketing…not so much.
Because fiction was me spinning a tale. Telling a story. Stepping into the shoes of storyteller — shoes I’d been cobbling my entire life. (Or at least since I was 10 years old, and my cousin told me I had no imagination.)
Marketing was different.
Marketing was me stepping forward, with my own thoughts and opinions. Putting myself out there for feedback and criticism. Waiting and ready for anyone (and everyone) to rip me apart.
This is the internet after all.
I know that, one day, the trolls will descend, or I’ll be imperfect and fuck up and get torn to shreds.
And that terrifies me.
Because, ironically enough, after 4 years of studying creative writing…of workshopping multiple projects week after week…giving and receiving feedback over and over and over again…I developed a very thick skin for my fiction.
I’m not kidding. By 4th year typical feedback in one of my creative writing classes was basically “Katie, I loved this piece! *cue 20 minutes of viciously ripping apart every single line, thought, character and phrase, down to the entire idea of the piece*”
That thick skin didn’t transfer over to my marketing.
Oh sure, I take client feedback like a champ. It’s just another writing assignment, after all. Just like being back in university.
It’s all the other stuff that rattled me.
Marketing my own marketing business was so much harder. Writing content, putting my thoughts and ideas out there…
It fucking terrified me.
And the few times I managed to actually do it…I sounded like a fucking robot.
Yes, it was good work. Yes, people liked it.
But there was always something…missing.
To put it bluntly: I was Trixie Mattel.
Nowadays Trixie is one of my all time favourite queens to ever appear on RuPaul’s Drag race.
But, back when she first appeared on season 7, I actually forgot who she was.
Yeah, you read that right.
I FORGOT WHO SHE WAS.
Hard to believe because this is Trixie now:
Kinda nutso, clothed head to toe in pink, and very, very strange.
She definitely stands out.
And this is how she appeared on season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race:
Still weird, but most normal people standards…but she looks like her own younger sister.
Well, her makeup for one.
Everything else, for another.
There is a Trixie quote out there somewhere about how she toned down her makeup in an attempt to win Drag Race and for the life of me do you think I can find it?
Just know that I’m not making shit up and it exists somewhere. And if any of you find it please send it to me.
Anyway, point being...Trixie has openly admitted to changing her makeup in order to win Drag Race.
Except her attempts to win did just the opposite.
Trixie was eliminated in episode 4 of season 7. And again in episode 10.
The irony is, Trixie is probably one of the biggest stars to come out of Drag Race.
In addition to a best-selling folk album, national tours, and a sold-out one-woman stand up comedy show…she has a national TV show on Viceland. (Co-hosted with fellow season 7 Drag Race alum, Katya.)
This quote from a GQ article about Trixie puts that into perspective:
To put that career leap in perspective, it’s akin to you doing whatever it is you do and then, two years from now, co-hosting a national TV show that airs its third episode on Viceland tonight. – GQ
How did Trixie go from Drag Race dropout to national TV star?
What was it that actually allowed Trixie to rise up and overcome and actually become a huge fucking success? Despite not going far?
She started being herself.
The Wireless has a great interview with Trixie where she talks about the evolution of her drag:
“Over the last couple of years I started fusing the comedy, the drag and the music – and, it was like a lightbulb turned on.
…When I started, I was doing a Malibu Barbie kind of thing, which didn’t make sense for the kind of music I was playing.
But then I started shifting Trixie to this kind of folk, Coachella-esque, country kind of Barbie – suddenly there was room for me to incorporate the music.
… But when I started adding guitar to my shows, people would tell me that their favourite part was the music.
Now that I have added it, it just feels right. Trixie now feels like a stand-up comedian and musician, whereas before I just felt like a comedian.
This evolution is why I love Trixie so much, and why she’s the first queen/lesson I’m writing about.
All of the disparate parts of Trixie existed before she put them together. The country/folk music, the Barbie doll aesthetic, the comedy — all of it.
It wasn’t any one of those that made her unique.
It was all of them. Put together.
In a way that only Trixie could do.
In copywriting and marketing, and fiction writing we would call this evolution “finding your voice”. Finding and discovering the point of view and the way you say things that makes you unique and memorable. That makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
The thing I love about Trixie is that her story is living proof of the fact that your voice is not something you find.
Let me repeat that:
YOUR VOICE IS NOT SOMETHING YOU FIND.
All of these parts of Trixie existed before.
ALL OF THESE PARTS OF TRIXIE EXISTED BEFORE.
Every single aspect of her voice — all of those different parts were part of her BEFORE she incorporated them into her drag.
Your voice is not something you find because it already exists.
It exists in all the separate, cool, unique things that make you you.
You just have to join them together.
Of course, it sounds easy…but how do you actually do that?
Once again, do what Trixie did.
Start being yourself:
“When RuPaul told me I was not going to be the next drag superstar, it made me double down,” Trixie recalls. “I got home from Drag Race and was like, “Okay I didn’t win. But how can I make the most of this?” Whatever second guesses I had about my makeup, or my sense of humor or anything, I just went one hundred percent in that direction. My makeup got one thousand percent more intense and the hair got bigger and I pushed my comedy. I realized, ‘This is the Trixie I’ve been inching toward, but now I’m sprinting toward it.’”
That’s from yet another interview, this one with Broadly. (Yes, I’ve read a LOT of Trixie Mattel interviews.) Emphasis is mine, because I
want need to highlight the idea of sprinting.
Sometimes, we inch towards an evolution of ourselves and our business. Taking things slow, getting incrementally closer to the thing we want.
Very, very rarely do we sprint.
(Partly because we don’t know what we’re sprinting towards but that’s a topic for another day.)
Very rarely do we sprint, because it’s safe and slow and easy to inch. We can plod and test and not rock the boat as we change one thing at a time.
Plodding can be valuable. But once you know where you’re going…sprint.
The number of online entrepreneurs I’ve talked to who struggle and struggle and grind away at their business, not seeing results, is unreal.
But then most of them shift. They pivot, just a little. Just enough to stop hiding what they really think, stop hiding those pieces of who they really are that they’re afraid the business world will deem unaccpetable.
With that shift, always, comes incredible success and validation.
I’m living proof.
Once I leaned into the pop culture and the Drag Race jokes, and embraced my skills as an editor of copy (not a copyeditor) my business exploded. I couldn’t keep up with the referrals.
For the first time in my life, I turned clients down. And some of them still wanted to work with me.
The difference is, you can’t see my transformation, whereas you can see Trixie’s.
On season 7 she was different. You could tell — there was something in her energy. Something that told me she was holding back.
Something that made her utterly forgettable to me.
And now her Funko Pop figurine sits on my desk.
Trixie is the perfect example, not just of finding your voice (Because your voice isn’t something you find — it already exists. You just have to be willing to unleash it. To be different and strange and weird and consider that this might actually work.) but of being yourself.
If she hadn’t let go, I don’t doubt that Trixie wouldn’t be here today.
This is Trixie’s “fast forward” moment. Except the difference is, you can still see the before and trace her journey.
Watch it. Watch it over and over and over again.
Watch it until it gets through to you: being yourself is the greatest power you have.
Being yourself is the surest path to success. And everytime you try to deliver on what other people want instead of being who you are…you’ll fail.
Because you are the heart and soul this business.