This is a guest post from Laura Cococcia. Laura write The Journal of Cultural Conversation. She tells stories. Good ones. Today she’s got a message for writers, shy people, bloggers, and any wannabe. Enjoy!
by Laura Cococcia
Usually, when something is found, it means that it’s been lost.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Machu Picchu, most often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas,” a sanctuary for the Inca nobility. It was rediscovered on July 24, 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham. Historical accounts debate if he really found it, but he spoke up first, so I guess he did.
I consider myself an adventurer too and tackle many personal goals head on. Yes, I’ve been to 40% of the countries I want to visit during my lifetime. Yes, I’ve created an Excel list of all my favorite restaurants in NYC, Chicago, London and other fabulous cities. I religiously check off each one after I’ve gone. Nerd alert.
But I’ve admittedly gotten lost along the adventure trail. Since I could read, I had a childhood dream to ‘be published,’ to write a book that changed the world. At the start of 2009, I made a resolution to do it. I researched the heck out of how to get my own book deal or even self-publish.
And then a trusted, wise teacher introduced me to blogging. I was shy at first. I talk a lot, was pretty Internet savvy and still I hesitated to write what I thought. And try to change the world as I was doing it. Lots of pressure.
Even more important, I hadn’t written more than a research report in five years. Sure, I had a journal, but that was it, and it was mostly me pining about dramatic breakups with men just to myself. One whole journal details my time with a guy who wore a fanny pack.
But, one cold January night in Chicago, I just did it. Started small. I wrote my first book review on my tiny personal blog that only my mom, my dad and my sister subscribed to.
And funny enough, as it grew, I found it to become one of the healthiest and strongest relationships I’ve ever had. I started telling bigger stories. I started asking well-known authors and artists if they’d be willing to do a short interview about how they found their voice. I partnered with a wonderful creative coach to keep my momentum going.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, and here I was – still excited about blogging, but feeling stale. I forgot metaphors. I started writing in a very serious tone, and I’m really not that serious. Except when it comes to my daily intake of Diet Coke.
It was good timing that my trip to the Lost City came when it did. I had the right amount of space and time to look into my laryngitis issue and figure out the best way to get loud again.
How I Got It Out of My Mouth
I still keep a journal (but now it’s less about men and more about me.) I penned some lessons I learned during my re-discovery –new things I’d never done to support my writing. More than, just ideas, these tips opened my eyes, ears and mouth to truly tell stories, not just make lists.
I’m psyched to share them with you.
1. Write how you talk. For work, I have to be a serious writer. But if you know me personally or could hear me talking now, you’d know that I like to inject a dash of humor and sarcasm into most of my conversations. Charlie Gilkey, my brilliant creative coach, once told me to record my insights and topics that came up in a voice recorder. While I had done it once before and forgot about it, I did it every day in Peru. Amazing. So different than what usually comes from my head to my computer and not one detail was spared.
2. Try to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. I spend so much time making sure I’m listening to others that I forget to ask questions. But when telling stories, it’s the “why” and “how” questions that count. Those are the type that bypass fact and get into opinion, thought and perspective. We can look up the rest of Wikipedia. In Peru, I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. And not just historical ones. To my tour guide: “Why did you choose this job and how do you see your career evolving?” To the children of Machu Picchu: “Why do you like math?” “Can I have some of your lunch?” (Yes, I did ask that. It’s not a why or a how question. It just slipped because I was hungry).
3. Take photographs. Before I started traveling a lot, I never took pictures. I always felt that if I was seeing sights, I might as well just buy a postcard. Yeah, not the same thing. It’s the nooks and crannies, the people, the setting around you that affects who you are, that helps you tell the story.
Next stop on my voice training tour? In January, I’ll be taking good friend Sage Cohen’s Poetry for the People class to tap into my imaginative side and create Walt Whitman-like verse. I’ve written one poem in my life: “An Ode to Cupcakes.” It stinks, but Sage says she’ll help.
How have you found your voice? Do you like to tell stories? Why? It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, farmer or astronaut – we all have our opinions and the world can change, even with one idea. We can share that idea by writing, talking, sending a smoke signal – let’s just get it out there.
My guess is that if we combined our tales together, we’d have one heck of a loud story to tell.
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