Rise & Shine Interview: Tina Benigno

Ever wondered what results from reaching out to someone who shares similar professional interests to you? A new connection and friendship can form. I'm excited that today, Tina Benigno, who I met from reaching electronically out while living in Toronto, is “Speaking From the Heart” and sharing her experiences with all of us.

Tina Benigno is excited to be starting her Ph.D. in Communication and Culture this fall after having held various positions in health, education, non-profit, food and arts settings. Some of the roles she’s had include that of registrar in a non-profit for people with eating disorders, a participant-observer in a narrative writing group for people with HIV, Teaching Assistant, barista, and children’s recreational gymnastics coach. She is currently a Digital Champion for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2013 as she trains for her 3rd full marathon! Get to know her better on her blog, http://tinainstride.blogspot.ca/. She’d love to hear from you! Read her interview below.

(c) Tina Benigno
(c) Tina Benigno

Why do you believe self-expression (speaking from the heart) is important?

I think speaking from the heart can ultimately help you feel at ease in your own skin, making room for you to pursue fulfilling projects. Though it may feel uncomfortable to express honest thoughts at first, I truly believe that sometimes letting go of reservations and facing the fear of being judged can be empowering. I still struggle with worrying about what the people I know will think of me when I open up in my writing. When I find myself getting anxious about opening up, I remind myself that as long as I am respecting my friends and family’s privacy, my expression might even help other people feel connected and free to open up as well.

How has writing empowered you in other areas of your life?

Because I find writing difficult, completing a writing project gives me a strong sense of accomplishment. Being able to put together thoughts in such a way that expresses something I might not otherwise be able to articulate is rewarding and empowering. I feel much more connected to myself when completing writing projects and this feeling of ease and confidence carries over into every aspect of my life. Writing about running and health on my blog certainly empowers me as a runner because in writing about my training process and my wellbeing, I am more likely to draw connections between this practice and my personal attitudes and values.


How did you find your authentic voice through writing?

My authentic voice has come out of wanting to be as true to myself as possible. I know that sounds corny, but in order for me to write, I have to contribute some personal aspect to the project. If I don’t connect to a topic, I have a difficult time writing about it and the reader will likely have just as hard a time reading it!

For some types of writing, such as the academic research paper, expressing an authentic voice is more of a challenge than for a blog post, but even then there is opportunity to speak genuinely. If the topic is one I can connect to on some level, I work with that. I do think it is possible to have both a professional and authentic voice. Since I was twelve years old, I have been interested in the way writing and self-reflection can go hand in hand. I suppose writing gave me the privacy I needed to explore topics that I was curious about and over time, an authentic voice emerged – and is still growing.

How did you develop the courage to stand tall (i.e., get the courage to share your writing)?

My openness to share my writing has fluctuated over the years. When I was younger, I would enter writing and play contests and I would submit poetry and articles to magazines. Then, my desire to share my personal work diminished. Ultimately, the reason I have ever been interested in sharing my work has been because of a desire to connect with others and hopefully have them feel less alone if they can relate to any of the topics I write about.

Reading other people’s personal work gave me the courage to stand tall. Recently, reading other people’s personal blogs gives me the courage to share my personal experiences.

When you have a hard time writing, what do you do to work through it?

Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot I do to work through it! If I have a deadline, I just plow through. Sometimes it really is just a deadline (self-imposed or not) that gets me to work through the difficult time. Sometimes I will relocate, depending on the writing project. Taking little breaks helps me refocus if I’m getting overwhelmed by the project.

How did you find your support group?

I’m lucky that I haven’t had to look far for support! My family, friends and boyfriend are incredibly supportive and encouraging. Responses from people online who have read something of mine that they relate to encourage me to continue speaking from the heart. Pursuing activities and topics of interest often leads to connecting with people with similar interests and values.

Any advice for new writers/authors?

Write what you would want to read. Be cautious, but not fearful. Follow your bliss!

Thanks for speaking from your heart and empowering others around the world, Tina! Keep up the fantastic work! If you have any specific questions for Tina about her writing process, please feel free to ask.

BeFunky_BeFunky_Journal Prompt Picture.jpg

One question that came to my mind after reflecting on what Tina said was "How do you go about pursuing activities and topics of interest?" Many people struggle with this, so I'm reaching out to you all and asking for your input.  Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!