Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write In YOUR Voice

Writing is an art, a gift, a skill, a talent. Not everyone has it. If you don’t have the gift of writing, stop struggling and give yourself a break. Don’t let that small shortcoming discourage you from journaling or from telling your story. One technique I have suggested for several clients as an introduction to journaling is to record your voice. 
Most people can express themselves fairly well when speaking. If you’re asked certain questions, you can usually answer them verbally. So, try that approach with your journal. Get yourself an inexpensive recording device -- it could be your cell phone recorder, a digital recorder or an old-fashioned tape recorder. Then, just talk. It might feel weird at first, but just find yourself a quiet spot and talk about what you would like to journal. 
Talk about what’s on your mind, what happened to you today, what you want to happen for your business, what you wish you could tell your boss, how great you feel about yourself or how relieved your are that you’ve finally gotten past an emotional issue. Then, play the tape back. Listen to your words. Get a feel for your cadence, your choice of words, your “voice.” Next, try to write this way. Learn to hear your own voice in your head as you write. It will get easier the more you do it. Soon enough, you’ll be writing in your own voice.
Don’t pressure yourself with trying to write like some famous author. You’ll never get anywhere that way. Be yourself. Write in your voice. You might be surprised at how well you like it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What (and How) I Write in My Journal

On any given day, any number of things could piss me off, make me smile, cause a gut-wrenching laugh or make me think WTF? These are the things I write about in my personal journal. Sometimes it’s something stupid that I do or something silly that I say that makes me grab my computer and type, type, type away about the experience. That’s one form or journaling.
Other times, I’m reflecting about something that happened in my past that I’m still dealing with. We all know it takes time to get over stuff. So, I write out how I feel, recalling how the initial incident made me feel way back then, and I contemplate how far I’ve come -- oh Lord, I hope I’ve made SOME progress! That’s a great emptying technique. This too, is a form of journaling.
Chillin' in a quiet villa in Barbados
People often think that journaling is the “Dear Diary” entries of our youth. Back when we wrote about a boy we liked who didn’t seem to notice us, or how mean we thought our parent were because they wouldn’t allow us to stay out past dark on a weeknight, or similar juvenile entries that worked back then, but just don’t quite hit the mark of an adult mentality. Life can be complicated as an adult -- it doesn’t have to be, but it often is. So what the heck, write about it!
There are any number of things to journal about from your daily life. You could write about your career, your family, a phone call you received, a movie that touched you, something you hope will happen, a new business venture, a conversation with a friend, the woman who backed into your car at the supermarket, a success you achieved, money woes, children, spouses, pets, parents ... whatever you want. The best part is that you can use whatever language you wish, describe things however you want, fudge on the details and even blame other people. Okay, I don’t recommend these last two. One of the benefits of journaling is that it’s healing; and truth is a huge part of healing. So, as much as possible, tell the truth to yourself in your journal. But hey, it’s your journal; you can do what you want. 
My point is ... write it down. Don’t worry about proper grammar, punctuation and spelling ... or what I call GPS. Just write ... or, if you prefer, type. In fact, I don’t even use capital letters in my electronic journal these days. That’s one less key I have to hit when I’m typing. When I journal, I’m pouring out a thought or an emotion and I don’t want to interrupt it with having to cap everything that needs to be capped. Oftentimes, I don’t even go back and correct errors. I like the rawness of my entries, so I sometimes keep those mistakes.
So tell me, what have you been journaling lately?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing Your Story: It Ain’t As Easy As It Sounds ... But It's Possible

I meet people all the time who say, “One day I’m going to tell my life story in a book.” No doubt, we all have a book inside of us. Telling your story is a release, an outlet, a way to share what you know, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve learned and what you hope for. For some, that book is a memoir -- a reflection on an aspect of their past that has had a profound effect on their present. For others, that burning book is an all-out autobiography that tells the life of the person from birth until the writing of it.
The problem is, easily nine out of 10 people who tell me they have a story to tell, never actually get around to turning it into a book. Life is happening, after all. Who has time to write a book? Some day, those aching souls will tell their children or grandchildren or some stranger all of the things they would have or should have written in a book, and hope beyond hope that their story will magically be shared with those who could benefit. Yeah, right. 
Most people will admit to being less than effective writers. Okay, basically people’s writing sucks, and they know it ... well, most people know it. No one intends to be a poor writer, but writing just isn’t one of those things that comes naturally for most people. So they struggle to write the most basic things, and the thought of writing a book -- even one about their own life -- is paralyzing. 
Me, in San Juan, Puerto Rico working on my manuscript
I can relate. I’ve been there ... not with the bad writing part (I’m a professional writer, after all). But with the getting started part. Back in 2005, in the midst of everything else I was doing, I had the nerve to decide to write a novel. What the heck was I thinking? There was a story burning inside of me to come out. I had to tell it. I had developed the characters, the plot, the setting, the works! Getting started was hard. Continuing was even more difficult. Then came the edits and rewrites and before you know it, it’s five years after I finished the first draft of my very first novel, and it still isn’t published. But I do feel a sense of relief and accomplishment for having done the writing. Now, the hard part. Getting a publisher to love it, publish it and get it in your hands so you can read it. Wish me luck!

Ideas Come a Dime a Dozen

Sometimes I feel like I have entirely too much to do. Yet, in the midst of all that “doing,” some wild idea pops into my head and off I go, exploring whether it’s a valid direction, a worthwhile venture, something that could be fun and even profitable. One such example: a few months ago, while IMing a friend on FB, we came up with what could be a great idea for a book. Honestly, I think it could become a best-seller ... but isn’t that what most people think of their book ideas. Who would come up with an idea for a book and think, “This is stupid, it just won’t work. Okay, let’s do it.” Now, that would be ridiculous.
Okay, so this book idea ... well, I can’t really say what it is right now. However, I do believe that the vast majority of 9-to-5ers will enjoy it and be able to relate. I stayed up until 1 a.m. that night developing an outline, chapter titles, topics to cover and even some text for the intro and closing. I love that kind of energy. The challenge is to keep it going; keep it fresh ... and not put off progress on this grand idea when the next one comes along. Ahhh, the dilemmas of a creative mind. 

What would happen if you explored each and every new idea we think of? I don’t mean to suggest that you should pour all of your time, money and energy into every little notion that your gray matter creates. But what would happen if you gave it just a little thought; a small bit of attention; a few days to marinade so you could determine whether it could actually become something? Perhaps you could be wealthier, happier, more free. Okay, it could go the other way and you could find yourself in the “poor house” or the insane asylum, but let’s not think in that direction. 

Give yourself permission to explore -- even for a day or two -- some of the ideas that come to your mind. Journal the possibilities, what resources you think you would need to make it happen and whether it is something that would bring you joy, feed your soul and lead you to the life you dream of ... or if it would be just another thing on your "to do" list. 

What do you think would happen if you did this with each new idea?