“Who will care if I write my story?”
“Is my story even interesting?”
“Is this really a ‘good enough’ story to write?”
These are phrases we hear from pretty much every writer.
It sometimes pains me to hear writers voice these kinds of doubts, but not because these aren’t worthwhile questions. What I do like about this line of questioning is that it helps get at an understanding of audience: Who will connect with my story? Who am I writing to? What do I want to say to them, particularly? When it comes to writing a book you want to share or sell, these are helpful questions. These questions will help you write in particularities and help you get through to people in a meaningful way.
But what I want to emphasize right now is that there’s a reason to write your story—arguably a more important reason—even if no one ever reads it. And that reason is you.
The Narrator Voice
You may have heard people describe writing as therapeutic.
Certainly, this is not true for all writing (some essays I wrote in college come to mind). Nor is it true, even, of all writing about oneself, or all journaling.
I’m not a therapist: maybe there is some kind of advantage of “getting out” the negative thoughts about yourself on paper, and seeing them for what they are. But what I’m more interested in is the use of what we at Find Your Voice call the narrator voice.
Whenever we write about ourselves, there are two selves involved: the past self (the one living the scenes we write about) and then the present self, the one explaining what happened, describing it, and reflecting on it.
This present self is the narrator voice. It’s the voice that interprets the action of the story: I walked downstairs, I crept downstairs, I marched downstairs—which was it? Narrator gets to decide.
The present self has all kinds of advantages the past self does not: she has time and perspective and more life experience. She has the ability to put her past self into context. She can see that past self in a new light. She has the power to offer grace or condemnation.
Framing has more impact than you might imagine. Compare the difference:
- After the breakup, I was pathetic. I couldn’t stop crying in public. I couldn’t even wear makeup because I knew I’d cry it off within the hour.
- After the break up, I cried a lot. I felt embarrassed, but I was moving forward with my life anyways, bravely focusing on the next task, through my tears.
- After the break up, I did not hide my pain or pretend to be happy. I was my authentic self with the world. It was not an easy journey, but it’s a practice I’ve tried to keep ever since.
Which story offers compassion? Empowerment? Admiration?
Whether it’s something small or something as significant as abandonment or death—writing gives us the tools to face the pain of our past.
The Gift of Attention
If a partner lavishes gifts on you, but denies you the basics of attention and a listening, compassionate ear, would you count that as a loving relationship? My guess is no. Time and care are so much more valuable than money.
What writing our own story does is allows us to give ourselves the gifts of time, attention, care, and compassion. The narrator self comes in and listens to our hurts and offers new perspective and a little healing. And when we’re willing to sit with the difficult parts of our own stories, we might find something we needed: courage or peace.
Write Your Story, Love Yourself
I’m a fan of how Valentines Day has turned, more or less, into a “love yourself” day. Alongside the cards, candy, and couples’ activities, you’ll see ads for ways to love yourself.
But there’s a lot more to self love than a special treat—whether that’s chocolate, wine, or a massage. What if your version of self love this year could be a kind of self therapy? What if you could give yourself the gift of compassion?
You can love yourself by writing your story. Writing your story for yourself is a way to give yourself time and attention, to be curious about yourself and to offer words of reassurance.
What life stories are coming up for you?
Want to start writing today? Check out our Prepare to Publish Self Study online course, and finally finish that book you’ve always wanted to write.