Joan Didion said that we tell ourselves stories in order to live. That’s why storytelling has been the most powerful force of culture since the beginnings of time. Out today’s interview hero, Connor Flynn, a freelance writer and content creator, also believes that a simple story can impact and connect lots of people. We talked to him about the power of narratives, inspiration and finding you own voice in writing.
What made you fall in love with storytelling?
I’ve always been captivated by movies. The way they can tell a story, how they can take you on an emotional rollercoaster and journey with the characters in just about 2 hours. At first when I was younger, I thought I just liked movies because they were just that… movies. But as I’ve gotten older and started telling stories of my own, I’d say I credit my love for storytelling to those movies I watched growing up. I don’t really have any particular ones in mind (although I always loved the way Disney told their stories, and now I can see why).
Nowadays when I watch a film, binge a show, or read a book, I love to look at it from a storytelling perspective. How do they introduce the characters? How do they hook the audience? And the last thing would be this: The more I tell stories, the more stories I want to tell.
Do you think words are the most powerful weapon at our hands?
I would say words really are the most powerful weapon we have. All of us can think back to a time when someone said something that made us feel a certain way. Sad, happy, proud, upset… Whatever it made you feel, it made you feel that way for a reason. And I think that’s a powerful thing.
You can use words to persuade someone, alter their emotional state, change their perspective, or even change their life. Think back to the most famous speeches in history and how powerful an impact they had and still continue to have. The way you connect with others all starts with words and communication. Most things in life start with words and have the ability to create reality, as cheesy as that sounds. And if you ask me, that’s a powerful thing.
How long did it take you to figure out what you want to do in life?
To be honest, I’m still figuring out what I want to do in life. I don’t think any of us really know what we’re doing. As a kid, you look at adults and think, “Wow, they have everything figured out.” But as you get older, you begin to realize even they are still trying to figure things out.
But I’ll say this. Over the past few years I’ve begun to get closer to what I want in life. And I found that by exploring, experimenting, and creating things of my own. I never would have found my love for storytelling if I never started telling stories to begin with. And that’s the same for anything. You never know unless you try.
So if I had to give advice to someone who doesn’t know what to do or what they want in life, I would say to explore and try as many new things as you can. Because eventually you’ll find something that sticks. Eventually you’ll find that thing that sets your soul on fire. The thing you can’t picture your life without.
What’s the best part of your work for you?
I honestly think the best part of my work is seeing the impact it has on others. Getting positive comments and hearing how much my work resonates or impacts someone, there’s nothing quite like that. I’ll also say that writing online and creating content opened so many doors for me that weren’t previously there. I’ve met so many amazing people and made some great friends all from putting my work out there.
So the two things I like the best about my work is the ability to connect with others I otherwise wouldn’t and the ability to make a lasting impact on others.
What do you think is the secret to connection with clients and readers?
The secret that I’ve found is to just be yourself. And yes, I know that sounds super cliché but it’s true. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. I’ve found that the most enjoyable type of writing to write and read is the most conversational. As a writer, all you’re trying to do is have a conversation with one person. So just be yourself and don’t take it too seriously. Pretend you’re having a conversation with an old friend.
I think another secret to connecting with others is being relatable. Think about it, it’s a lot easier to build trust with someone when you see they’re just like you. Whether they were in your exact situation or come from a similar background.
Being relatable and being yourself are the two things that will get you farthest when you’re trying to connect with your reader.
What helped you find your voice in writing and presenting yourself to the world?
Honestly, I think the best way to find your voice is to replicate other writers first. When you’re new and haven’t written too much, it can take a bit of time to find out what works for you. So I know when I was in that position, I studied other writers and kind of picked apart the things I liked about their writing and took note of the things I didn’t like. Do I like their shorter style of sentences? Check. Do I like the way they use huge, complex words? Nope. The more writing you read from others, the more you’ll start to see what elements you would want to include in your own writing.
And then the other thing may be obvious… but in order to find my voice, I had to write a lot. Most of the time I didn’t publish it, but I just wrote to myself over and over again. Eventually, I started to get a feel for the type of writing I enjoyed.
So those are the two main things I did to find my own voice. I read a lot of work from other writers and took note of the things I liked and didn’t like, and I wrote a lot.
Office vs Freelance: what’s closer to you?
I would say I’m more of a freelance-style writer. I don’t have much experience in an office. But I’ve been writing freelance and writing for myself for quite some time now. I think I work best when I’m alone and focused on my work, so freelance writing has been able to do that for me.
Where do you look for inspiration in your work?
The main place I look for inspiration for my work is in the work of others. I can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve jotted down on my phone after seeing something on social media or the internet. We’re fortunate to live in a time when almost anything is accessible and anyone can share their ideas and creativity with the world. So I definitely take advantage of that.
The other (often overlooked) place I find inspiration is in my own work. Many people think you have to come up with an original idea every time you create something. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve only recently started looking at my own work as inspiration, but it’s been a game-changer. Maybe I said something in a podcast that I want to expand upon in a blog article. Maybe I wrote a paragraph in an email that I want to turn into a video. Once you realize that inspiration is all around you, it becomes a lot easier to start creating.
Do you have any advice for young freelancers and content creators?
The main advice I have is to just start. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It may be scary at first or you may think others won’t care about what you have to say. But the truth is, we all have a story to tell. It’s just a matter of realizing your story is worth telling.
So just start somewhere. Start small and eventually once you gain some confidence, work your way up. The hardest part is the first time you hit “publish.” After that, you realize it wasn’t so bad. So don’t be afraid to share your work and show your creativity. Because it can open more doors of opportunity than you ever thought possible. I know it did for me.