Join me here, as I explore a wide range of subjects that spin out of my book, from the memoir writing process itself, to what does it mean to be “spiritual”, to writing haikus.
Today I want to share an essential truth I discovered, while writing my story. I hope it might inspire you to consider writing some of your own.
Drum roll: here it is! ONLY YOU CAN WRITE YOUR STORY!
Nobody else can tell it like you can. Someone else can write about you. But only you can access all that is within you. We each carry within us thoughts, feelings, memories, unformed thoughts and feelings, snippets, seeds, losses and triumphs small and big, half remembered, close to floating on the surface, hiding in the darkness, the threads of our stories. Only you can step into this uncharted territory.
“Why do that?” you ask.
In my experience, writing is a healing process. Something magical happens when you put words and sentences together to describe your life experiences. You begin to listen to yourself, as you tell your truths. And when you tell your truth, you wake up to your unique reality. It may not be pretty , or glorious, but it’s yours.
So something that you might have pushed away, denied, or held at arms lengths moves a bit closer, and has the potential to be owned and understood in a deeper and more compassionate way.
It’s a special form of time travel. You are telling your story now, including the present, but the story almost always involves the past. So your present self is listening and understanding your past self. And when that happens the story changes. Here’s the magic: you get larger. Your perspective may shift. AAH, you may say, I see it a bit differently now.
But why write it down? It’s true, you don’t have to. It can be oral, perhaps something you explore with a therapist, or tell a friend, or keep to yourself. But here’s what happens when you do write it down. It’s tangible, it’s there, it becomes a record you can keep, just for yourself or to share with others. It’s a seed that can expand, or it can stay where it is.
But even more profoundly, when you read words on a page, they reflect your truth back to you. They speak back to you, and it is then that you have an opportunity to refine, go deeper or say yes: this is exactly what I wanted to say.
“But,” you may say, “my story is not that interesting.”
To that I say, “Fie on that negative thought.” It’s the number one poison to anyone who contemplates sitting down to write.
I have spent over 40 years listening to people tell their stories in my work as a psychotherapist. And everyone’s story is unique. None ever the same. Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear something new. Some new way a person has suffered, and overcome adversity in a creative way.
Even if the outer trajectory of your life seems to be like many others, that in itself is of interest. What did you give up, what path didn’t you take?
Have I whetted your appetite?
Here are some thoughts about how to begin. There is no one right way.
- Start small. Perhaps write a description of the room you are in now, locate yourself in it. Where are you sitting? What do you like about it? What do you not like? And reflect a bit on how you ended up at this address. Or perhaps choose an article of clothing that you love and describe that.
- Or start bigger: there’s a key relationship in your life that you have always wanted to understand better: your little brother. Write a description of that person
- Don’t erase anything! Just keep going.
- Understand that you may be tempted to very critical of what is on the page. I will be dealing with that in a future blog. For now, know that the deepest part of you really does want to express itself.
The minute you step back and begin to look at your life and ask a few questions, a story starts to emerge.
Here are some more general questions to ask:
- How did I get to this moment in time in this situation?
- What did I have to give up to get here?
- What have I lost, and who?
- What is missing that I want?
- Who helped me?
- Who didn’t?
Asking any of these questions can be a writing prompt.
So sharpen a pencil, buy a journal or open your computer to a new document and begin. You may surprise yourself.
Till next time.