I couldn’t help but like Cosi Costello when I interviewed him last month for Inspired Magazine regarding his charity, Cows for Cambodia. Quick to laugh, and with a self-deprecatory humour, Cosi seemed like the kind of guy you’d like to be mates with. I wanted to help him. I wanted to further his cause.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about what made him so likeable. Obviously, the fact that he’s dedicated much of his life to helping poverty-stricken rural Cambodians makes him one hell of a nice guy. But it was his lack of pretence, his authenticity that really struck me. He had no need to appear all professional and fancy and, because he was real, I couldn’t help but like him.
It strengthened my belief that, when it comes to presenting ourselves in our businesses, we’re so much better off being authentic. But many newbie writers are scared to reveal their true selves for fear it makes them appear unprofessional. They think they need to use industry jargon, to use bigger words, to be all posh if they want to win clients.
But I disagree wholeheartedly. Readers are sick of glossy marketing-style talk. They want to know about the real you – your hopes, your fears, your challenges, your triumphs. Your job as a storyteller is simply to be you – the realest version of you you can muster. If you’re inclined to speak in slang – do so. If you throw the odd swear word, include it in your work, if you tend to get really excited, show us.
I know it can be scary. What will people think? What will they say? Won’t I look uncool or unprofessional? But, if your intent behind the story is good, the right people will love you for having the courage to reveal the real you. And those who don’t, well they’re not your people anyway.
Take the case of this quote Cosi used when describing one of the women to whom he decided to gift a cow through his charity.
“You could tell she was having a red hot go at life and she had this smile that would knock you sideways,” Cosi said.
He could have said; “She was trying extremely hard to succeed and had a beautiful smile.”
But which version engages you? Which version exudes enthusiasm? The first one, because Cosi is allowing the unrestrained and excited ‘real him’ to shine through.
How can you reveal more of the ‘real you’ in your stories?