My S.T.Y.L.E: Brenna Daldorph, Paris freelance writer
Brenna Daldoprh is a freelance journalist based in Paris, France. She works in both print and radio-- which involve two very different styles of writing. As for topics, she often works on social justice issues, and has explored writing in multiple corners of Africa, including Kenya, Central African Republic, Senegal, La Reunion, and Madagascar.
Please tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a very international family in Lawrence, Kansas and, even as a kid, I felt a drive to write. I kept diaries, I wrote letters and I was constantly making up stories and painstakingly typing them on Microsoft Word. My dad’s a poet and I think I inherited his obsession with stories. Now, as a journalist, I actually go out and meet people with incredible lives instead of inventing them myself. But the craft is in figuring out how to create a meaningful narrative from what you see and hear. Here’s another thing about me. I am a slow writer.
How would you best describe your style?
I think my writing is quite emotional. A lot of times, I am writing about real people and real events. But what always impacts me the most is the emotion that my characters are feeling, the emotion that I am feeling as I learn about them and the emotion that I want to leave my readers with. I work a lot with rhythm in my writing. I look at both the way my words and sentences flow together… and the way sharp breaks can make a point.
What are your most successful writing habits?
I have an idiosyncratic little ritual that is my magic formula for getting big chunks of work done or breaking through writer’s block. I wake up early and go on a long run. When I’m done, I stretch for a minute, get water and maybe tea and then sit down and write. I don’t even shower first-- I feel like a shower breaks my flow. For some reason, my focus is always incredible when I start a writing day that way and my ideas just sparkle.
Which S.T.Y.L.E technique do you focus on more in your writing? (Structure, Transition, Your Voice, Layering, or Editing) Why?
Editing definitely the most important part of my writing because I always start out messy and long-winded. But once I have a first draft, I can work with it. I just have to go over it again and again and again and again. I have to revisit word by word and chop out whole sections and add new things. But eventually, it is possible to spin straw into gold.
I am also a huge believer in getting other people to read and edit my work. When I am at my wits end, I call for help and, usually, someone will be able to identify what isn’t working and give me a nudge in the right direction. Even when I am happy with the product, I usually give it to trusted people to read and it always gets better.
How do you write to get noticed?
I think that your voice is what gets you noticed. Lots of people can write well, but no one sees the world as you do. If you can manage to successfully bring someone into your world or the world you see, then you are most of the way there.
What is your brainstorming process?
I wish I had a perfect formula. Just remember that ideas can come from all different places. Keep your writing in your thoughts as you go about your day and be ready to let a mundane conversation or something you heard on the radio transform into an idea. I tend to mull over questions I am struggling with while I am living my daily life and then, suddenly, when I am least expecting it, I’ll have a little epiphany. I’ll suddenly connect the dots. I always know it when I have it.
How do you overcome writer's block?
I did learn one trick from a radio mentor that I think is pretty ingenious. If I get stuck, I’ll go for a walk. While walking, I’ll pull out my iPhone and start the voice recording app. Then, I just talk into it and try to explain the story that I want to tell. I pretend I am speaking to a friend. I notice what I start with, which details I include and how I end. Often, this is very telling. I usually make multiple recordings. Then, when I get home, I use what I said into the recorder as a springboard for my story.
How can we start becoming better writers overnight?
Get a good night’s sleep. Just kidding. Though, actually, sleep does do wonders. I think the best recipe is to start writing about your experiences and to start re-reading and re-working that writing.