Do you often feel you have an important message to share with the world? Is there a calling inside you to tell your story in an attempt to encourage others? Perhaps you’ve overcome hardships or adversity in your life and you feel, by writing on these personal experiences, you can help others do the same?
As an author coach, this is precisely the type of person I tend to attract into my circle. Notice I didn’t say writer, I said person. The reason for that is because in my experience, those who are called to share their message do not necessarily consider themselves writers. In fact, it’s this very belief that they are not trained writers that holds many back from sharing their message in the first place.
But don’t we all have something to contribute to the world? Chances are, if you’re alive, you’ve had experiences in your life that someone else can relate to and maybe even learn from. By expressing your story in words, you can reach others who are on the same journey as you, and in turn, help them through a similar experience. Sometimes just knowing we are not alone is half the battle.
So, what then holds us back from our inner calling to write our stories? I’ve found there’s a common theme among aspiring authors, and it usually boils down to one of three things:
- Self-doubt. “Who am I to tell this story? It’s all been done before. There’s so much on the market already like this. What makes me so special?”
- Fear. “What will my family think? I can’t possibly share this; I don’t want to upset anyone.”
- Self-sabotage. “It’s too painful to revisit the past and re-open old wounds.”
Let’s address these one by one, shall we?
Who Am I to Tell this Story?
It’s true, if you set out to write on just about any topic, chances are it’s already been done. There are thousands of books on every topic imaginable, but does that mean the topic is exhausted and can’t be further explored by you? Of course not! Because what you have that no other person on this planet has are your experiences and your voice. And nobody will write the story quite like you, from your point of view, because nobody else has walked in your shoes.
If you’ve struggled with hardship, overcome adversity, or traveled through a trying time in your life, then you have a story that could help someone else who faces the same circumstances.
I Don’t Want to Upset Anyone
I hear this one often. This issue can be tricky, and only you can decide just how much you want to share about those closest to you. On one hand, you may feel you owe it to them to be mindful of their privacy. On the other hand, it’s your life, and your experiences. You own those experiences, and nobody can take them from you.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” —Anne Lamott
While I’m a firm believer in the idea that you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for sharing your truth, there are also ways to protect yourself when giving details from your past. You’ll want to be careful not to label someone or defame their character. For example, you wouldn’t want to claim your brother was an addict, but you might mention he took drugs on occasion. While sometimes these details are relevant to the story, it’s often a good idea to tread lightly when labeling others, and if you have any doubts, you might consider changing the names and locations to protect the innocent. There are ways around these minor details, so don’t let this stop you from sharing your message in the first place.
I’m Not Good Enough
In my line of work, I have the pleasure of reviewing manuscripts for a living, and each time I receive one, I never first ask if the person is a trained or experienced writer. That’s not what I’m looking for. There are editors and writing coaches who can help you polish your work prior to publication, so grammar and punctuation are not that important in a first draft. I’m looking for the underlying message.
What I find is that those who have an inner calling to share their truths with the world, don’t need to be trained writers in order to connect with their reader and tell a compelling story. It’s when they can delve deep within to pull out those experiences and tell them with sheer abandon that their best writing emerges. In order to do this, you often have to allow yourself to be vulnerable and feel the emotion as you’re writing. And that may mean reliving those painful moments so they can resurface.
My Story Is Too Painful to Write
If this is your reason for not writing your story, then perhaps this is the exact reason why you might want to consider it! Let me explain…
I saw a meme on social media recently that said:
"When you can share your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you have healed." -Unknown
Whether or not this is true for you, only you can decide. But if it is, then wouldn’t you benefit from allowing your emotions to come to the surface and be processed? Well, writing is a great tool to do just that!
The Only Way Out Is Through
Think about it, how often are we told to journal about our emotions and see what comes up? The same is true when writing a book, a speech, a blog post or a magazine article. If we are going to openly tell our most authentic truth, we are going to have to walk through those emotions once again. The number of aspiring authors who never finish their books because of this is astounding. “It was just too painful to write; I just can’t go back to that place.” I hear it all the time.
So, you put your writing aside—convinced that it’s just too painful—and go on with your life, but where do you think those emotions went?
Let me ask you this: if you are shutting down those emotions in an attempt to avoid dealing with them, don’t you think that at some point they will reappear? We can’t run from our past! And when we take the time to work on ourselves and process those emotions, that’s when healing occurs, and that’s precisely why I always say writing is a therapeutic practice. So whether you keep a journal solely for yourself, or you set out to pen your memoir, there’s something beneficial to sharing through the written word. It will not only help others, but will help you as well, and that alone may be all the reason you need to incorporate writing into your life.
Writing as A Tool to Process Emotions
So how can you introduce a writing ritual into your life? There are many ways. Sometimes we need to take baby steps on our way to reaching our goals, and that’s perfectly fine.
- Start a journal. You might begin by journaling each day. This is often a safe way to get into the habit of writing freely about your experiences, because it’s for your eyes only. There’s no fear of judgment while sharing in a journal, so this is often where I recommend you begin.
- Create a blog. Once you become a little braver, a blog is a great place to test the waters. You are starting to put yourself out there, but it’s your blog, so there is no right or wrong, and you can decide how much and how often you want to disclose.
- Contribute a chapter in a compilation book. Many novice writers start out by contributing chapters to compilation books. This is a great next step because you are in the company of other authors writing on the same or a similar topic, and your commitment of one chapter is often easier to tackle than an entire book. This is also a nice way to become familiar with the publishing process.
Once you feel you’re ready, then you’ll begin writing your book. If this is your goal, the best advice I can give you is to write the first draft for yourself. Write openly about all that comes up, as if you were expressing these thoughts in your journal. Don’t worry about the fears we tackled earlier, and check your ego at the door with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign! You can always decide later what will stay and what to edit out. But I promise, when you can silence the ego and write from the heart, that’s when your best writing will emerge and you’ll find your voice. And you may just find some healing in the process as well.