I tell stories every day. I use them to explain what I mean, what I want to be and what I do. Stories may be full of words but they only work if they paint pictures. People don’t really want to read; they don’t really want words – they want pictures. They want stories.
When I ask business people to tell me what they do, there are usually very few pictures knocking around in the words they use. Academics are even worse. Ask them about the research studies they’ve spent the last five years of their lives on and they’ll give you more words than your brain can cope with, but almost nothing to see.
So tip for the day: if you’re struggling with how to put your business idea on the page right now, give it a personality. Is it a Brian or a James? Quentin or Dave? What car would it be? If it were a sound, a book cover, a musical instrument, what would it be? Play with your words until your idea has a character, a name and a star sign. Until you can see it. Now you can tell your story and people will listen.
A lot of my mates spend this “down time” sitting on the beach, in the park, even going on holiday, and put it down to research. But they tend to be the fiction writers for whom simply going out of the front door can inspire a new idea for a story. So, although humble non-fiction write I may be, I’m training myself to get out more, to leave Google alone and search for new ideas for an article or book over a cup of coffee.
I try to justify it to myself; getting out of the house is tricky enough with my work ethic, but making a plan to meet someone who knows more than I do will almost always lead to earning enough out of the conversation to cover the petrol, car parking and latte bill. A writer’s job is to tell the world what people are up to, so indulging your passion, meeting the people who spend their lives immersed in your subject doesn’t have to be an act of pure hedonism on a Wednesday morning.
This week’s coffee was with someone who has spent the last ten years doing what I want to do in food and who, in the space of an hour, swapped enough information and contacts to help me pitch for a report (with funding), an article – or even series of – and a mass of ideas for the book currently out with my agent. Let’s hope that the breath of fresh media air is something that can help her in return.
Report proposal written, all I have to do now is wait for feedback, pitch for funding (a research job in itself) and then wait some more. Or I could see who else might be up for a coffee.