How Diane Lane Narrating My Life Became This Blog

Little Thoughts on Finding Your Writing Voice

I’ve been in career mode recently.  I love when my brain lets me go there.  I have these occasional waves of motivation, usually timed with the changing of the seasons.  Fall is a big one for me.  I want to fill my house with pumpkin smells, wrap up in a blanket, and make large claims about writing a novel.  I even recently took an awesome rocking chair from someone’s curb on bulk garbage day and arranged this handy-dandy writing nook.  For the time being, it’s really helping–yet I have absolutely accepted that it may turn into a cat cuddle space/storage area.

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I’ve had several people ask me about how I decided to begin blogging and how I grew this voice over the years.  So here is my personal experience, with advice that may be up your alley as well.

The other night, I was sitting in my new rocker and started to pick through a section of our book shelf that just holds our endless collection of diaries and journals from over the years.  If there’s one action that proves how much my husband and I trust each other, it’s by openly leaving out approximately ten years of feelings on a bookcase in the middle of the apartment.

Anyway, I found my Camino notebook–the oneI used during my first hike across Spain.  The back of it is filled with panicked budgeting and addresses for everyone on my postcard list.  Though I’ve been a diary writer for as long as I can remember, this notebook was the most similar to my future blog.  But making the leap to online writing primarily developed when I was left alone with  my thoughts while walking for approximately eight hours a day in a desert/mountain/middle-of-nowhere Spanish village.  You have a lot of time to think, talk, sing, write songs, rhyme silly words with one another, zone out, count flowers, and sometimes even try to translate as much of The Wizard of Oz lyrics into Spanish.  You get the idea, you have a lot of time.

Well, amidst all this, my journal writing began to reflect the persistent narrator inside my head.  My fellow hikers would occasionally check in to see who my current mental voice sounded like this week (I have tons of respect to everyone for not thinking I was totally losing my mind).  Some days, it was Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun.  In case you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about:

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Under The Tuscan Sun Clip

Other days it was Forrest Gump.

 

I didn’t think anything of this, I’ve had narrator in my head since I was little.  Too many movies with a dramatic, James Horner-backed narrative during my childhood I guess.  But I learned throughout the hike that this is how I compartmentalize my experiences and how I process important moments of my life.

Slowly but surely, these voices were reflected in my journal writing.  Brain to paper was a huge step, and not an immediate one.  Now, I have never been a diary writer that reports the day’s activities.  I don’t like to report what happened–I already know what happened.  I mainly like to get all the angsty thoughts on paper before I spew them at someone else–it’s a moment of mental detox.  But as my mind’s observant voice developed, the more it began making its jump to the page.  My writing began to balance out between ranting and experience–and hence, the blog voice was born.

Blog Post Structure

The leap between my journal and blog writing came when I began to latch onto really nice ideas that my mental voice chose to say during that given week.  If I had a particularly poignant moment–whether big or small–I learned to bookmark the wording that came to mind and write it down for later.  If it really strikes me, then I see if there are larger themes going on in my life that could be related.  This post is a good example.  Often in life, images and feelings tend to repeat themselves within a short period of time.  It’s like when you keep spotting the same word over and over and realize it’s a super-weird coincidence. This happens with fluffy feelings and motivational blog posts as well.

The more experience I had with morphing a moment into a story/lesson, the more aware of these moments I became.  I could even drag them up from the past.  The issue I still struggle with is how to create ideas when you need to write, especially when you haven’t have a light bulb moment in several months and your blog is getting dusty.

Writing for an Audience

In my early days, I wasn’t that concerned with audience.  I just wanted to write something and post it without passing out from fear.  If one person read it, that was enough for me.  In the beginning, I was very lucky to see this new venture as a side-project just for me–not for money or attention.  Creatively, this is how I really managed to grow as a writer.

As the years went on, and this became more my jam, audience became way more important.  I can break up my current writing voices into several categories:

Personal Blog:

I do whatever the hell I please.  This began as a public way to develop my writing, so whether my post is 400 words or 1500 words, it doesn’t matter.  It will be nice for some people, and not great for others.

Outside blogs:

Get to the point while keeping your voice intact.  My biggest jump from online journal writing was keeping everything within a word limit while still telling a story with soul and personality.  But this is the skill worth developing.  Too long a story and your reader is lost.  Too succinct and you’re writing a book report.  When a story strikes you as important, how do you put someone in your shoes without banging the story over their heads?

Essay writing: 

This is my new jam. I picked up Creative Nonfiction’s book about three years ago, and it opened my eyes to this genre.  Apparently first-person memoir essays are a thing that you can write for money!  And people want to read them!  And they’re so much longer and more poetic than blog posts.  So when writing these, and I’ve only submitted to a few contests so far, I let all pistons fire at once.  I get lofty, I write on and on, I make comparisons to birds and trees and rainstorms.  The privacy of it–the chance that it might be published on paper opposed to the internet–for some reason allows me the freedom to tell darker secrets and elaborate where blog platforms often fall short.

Ways to keep growing:

After I while, I recognized I was falling into the same traps.  I wrote (and still often write) on the same subjects and tend to come to the same conclusions about art and careers and such.  What was missing was a teacher.  And so I began to obsessively read.  My final bit of advice is to seek out which authors spark your urge to write.  Their form of narrative should have such a strong power over you that you put down the book and race off to your notebook or laptop.  For me, these ladies are Nora Ephron, Anne Lamott, and one of the first narrative writers who inspired me, Dominique Browning.

Just get started:

For those of you who have approached me in the past several years about starting a blog, I will generally tell you this (but am clearly happy to elaborate): find a platform that’s free and easy to use–I highly recommend WordPress.com–and write as if you have nothing to gain or lose from hitting the publish button.  What inspires you will inspire someone else.  What bores you will bore others.  Start with your own needs and the people who you connect with will find you.  Then share, share away on Facebook and Twitter!  That’s how I get 90% of my traffic.  The other 10% or so is from exploring the wonderful WordPress community and reading other’s blogs on topics I enjoy.

Your voice will only continue to develop with time, as I hope mine does as well.  You will never–at any point in your career–be able to predict how an audience will respond to a post you love.  So you might as well write it if it makes you happy.  When in doubt, go on a hunt for a voice similar to your own and let them lead the way.

 

 

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Blooms By the Box Featured Our Wedding!

How flippin’ cool is this?  Blooms by the box, the fantastic wholesale floral company we used to arrange our wedding flowers, featured our story and photos on their blog!  Right after we got married, I had this weird DIY-overacheiver-panic that I was supposed to somehow be crafty and stylish enough to be featured on a wedding blog. Over two years later, long after those irrational expectations have worn off, here we are!  Big congrats to our amazing photographer, Kim Craven and of course, The Chalfonte Hotel, where I plan to someday retire until they kick me out.  Looking forward to arranging my sister’s wedding flowers from here next summer as well!

Check out the post here!  Woo, exclamation points!

Unity ceremony, the only potted plant we really needed.

The Native Navigator Launch Day!

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Put on your party hats, friends!  I have finally launched The Native Navigator! It is still very much a work in progress, but as I find my way, it would mean more than the world to me if you either followed the blog, followed me on Twitter at @NativeNavigator or Liked my Facebook page.  I am still figuring out how I want to go about this whole thing, and you have all been the most important and supportive people in the development of my writing and blogging.  So whether it’s still a hot mess or not, I would love your feedback.  Either way, it’s live!!  Wooohoooo!!

Speranza Theatre Support and Blog Promo Opportunity!

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Speranza Theatre Company’s Piece of My Heart

Happy Friday!  I have a very special theatre company to tell you about, one that I have worked with for the past year and a half and cannot recommend enough.   Speranza Theatre Company in Jersey City is a rapidly growing professional theatre group that promotes the works of female playwrights, plays supporting women’s issues, and projects with strong female characters.  It is also a huge part of Jersey City’s expanding arts scene.

This past year, we received our first grant, which is amazing in itself.  In addition, the grant will match any donations made within our current campaign.  This November 5th, we open Janey Miller’s World Tour, a new hilarious romantic comedy by John Cassel.

Also, we will soon be announcing an amazing project currently in development to support Women Rising, a domestic abuse shelter in Jersey City.

I’ve found that the Wordpress world is a rare supportive online community that I cherish not only for the writing support it has provided to me over the past five years, but also for the constant talent I come across in all of your blogs.  And so, I reach out with another great care of mine in case you are in the position to either help us reach our financial goal, or to spread the world of our exciting company and campaign.

To celebrate any support you are willing to provide, I am happy to promote your writing in an upcoming “thank you” post!  Though I am always excited to promote wonderful writers I come across, and hope to make it more of a regular practice, this is another wonderful excuse to do so.  Please feel free to message me through my contact page for any questions about the company, campaign, or how to get involved if you are an actor/playwright/general theatre lover.

Thank you so much for reading and have a fabulous weekend!

Click here to support or share Speranza Theatre Company’s Fall Fundraiser!

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The Financial Diet- Survival Job Publication

Hello all!  Though I took a mini blogging hiatus last week, I’m excited to announce that I had an original article published by The Financial Diet, a marvelous website that simplifies navigating a healthy financial lifestyle.  They also published my article several weeks ago, about backwards budgeting.

More posts are on the horizon this week.  Happy Monday everyone!

 

10 Things All Creatives Must Know About Having A “Survival” Job

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The Native Navigator: New Website Announcement

Creative Commons Photo by Barby Dalbasco

Creative Commons Photo by Barby Dalbasco

The time has come!  A website idea of mine has been in the works for a while now, and things are finally getting rolling.  At the end of October, The Native Navigator will officially go live!  The Url is purchased, the hosting is all set up, and I am in the early phases of making it look pretty and fabulous.  Since you have all been such supportive readers, I would like to occasionally post with progress updates and requests for advice.  So what the heck is this website?…

The Native Navigator: The World in Your Backyard

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First of all, many thanks to Antonia Del Corsano, a very witty high school friend, for helping me come up with the title.

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The Financial Diet Publication

Publication saves the day!  Today started out with me throwing my tea mug across the room and ruining my work laptop.  So to say the least, finding out that The Financial Diet published my article about Backwards Budgeting significantly turned the day around.  I really enjoy these ladies, so I highly recommend wandering around their site!  Very honored to be included!

6 Rules For Being A Freelancer Who Isn’t Terrible With Money

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Elite Daily Publication

Yahoo!!  Okay, I am new to this whole getting published thing so I am still celebrating every time it happens.

This is an article I wrote on a whim.  I recently became a contributing writer to Elite Daily, and their “trending topic” of the week was “Traveling without Technology.”  So I wrote this in about 30 minutes and sent it just in case it struck their fancy.

So here it is!  Thanks for reading, everyone!!

What it Was Like to Walk 500 Miles Without a Smartphone

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