The writing process is messy and it’s supposed to be. When you truly dive into a story and let all that you are jumble up with all that your story asks to be, there will be many times when you have no idea which end is up.
And this is good news. When this is your experience, it means you are on the path even if you think you’re lost in the woods.
You look up, flushed, and a bit out of sorts as if you’ve emerged from a deep dive and strangely peaceful even though you’re not sure where the shore is. This is what it feels like to write from your core. You nailed it: the last paragraph, page, stanza, totally delivered.
You get a bit of a rush. Your confidence spikes and your endorphins kick in. You decide to do the unthinkable: show it to someone. You practically leap over the sofa as your partner comes through the door and thrust your journal at him. “Read this. Tell me what you think”, you say. So he does. Then he looks at you funny. But not funny bad, funny weird. You know the face: polite cheeks just a little too high because of the tight smile, and the distant but encouraging eyes. Yes, he is being super friendly but you can read it all over him. He doesn’t get it.
You get that dropping full stop in your stomach. Your bum cheeks let go. You smile back and say “thanks” as he says “it’s good”.
Damage done. Your second guessing starts. You start to stagger and stammer through “I just started. I’m not sure exactly where I’m at yet. Really. Hey, thanks for looking at it. No really. I’m okay. Thanks for looking at it.”
Then what do you do?
You stop. Right?
Or maybe it’s like this: You’re writing something deeply personal. It might be a memoir piece. You might be capturing a sliver of your life that was treacherously difficult but because you lived through it and came through stronger for it you feel an intense desire to write about it. This horrendous thing which like a phoenix, you rose from the ashes as it blazed this knowing inside you: to whom much is given much is expected is WHY you feel compelled to share your story. And so you do. Bravely, courageously and unabashedly let us all in.
Again, this is good.
This IS what we write about.
Your instincts are bang on.
But then something happens.
You write about it instead of into it. You know what you want to say so you say it on purpose. You don’t know this, but your story is now dying a slow painful death inside of you. Because you are so clear about the impact you want to make you take us right to the target but lose us because we didn’t discover it with you. The painful details of your story begin to feel brutal and obvious instead of devastating yet transformative. Your journey takes on a caricature quality because it has become a vehicle to drive instead of a partner to navigate. As the reader, we’re now bored. We’re judging. We stop listening not because we don’t believe you, but because we can’t hear you. We hear your commentary instead.
I wrote it to protect you from draining all the beauty out of something you treasure as sacred enough to make a difference by giving it away. I want you to have your dream. I want your story of survival into thriving to be protected and nurtured until it’s ready. I want that for you.
You see, your story has to live in order to connect. It has to sit with you as you write it like a mysterious loving friend who word by word lets you in on a precious secret. A part of your writing process is supposed to be unknown to you. We want to go with you as you discover the layers that live between the details, in the pauses, the breaths, and the moments of waiting. But a story needs to be ready for that. Sometimes we have to spend a lot of time alone first, being obvious and hard hitting with our words and images until our bruising heals and we no longer need to give our words away. That’s when we’re free. That’s when it’s time to let someone else in. We invite them we don’t need them.
There is a line between public and personal for every writer and it’s going to be different for you than it is for me. Here’s the way I think about it: Stories are like children and we’d never send them out into traffic without us – that is, not until they’ve grown up a bit.
Meribeth Deen and I had a good chat about this line today. This is what we came up with.
Want to join in to our Aspiring Author’s Core Story Club, you can do that here.
TinaO is a Core Story Specialist and a Program Director of PUBLISH with Meribeth Deen for The LEAP Learning Lab. She’s a writer, speaker and the founder of TinaOLife – a hub to Live, Give and Be Your Story, plus the deep listening weekend retreat Live Your Best Story. She’s been in the PR and Marketing world since she could put words together and has been a professional network marketer for over twelve years. She teaches: selling isn’t slimey, marketing isn’t make-believe and writing won’t give you an aneurysm (it’s not hard). You can be yourself in all that you do. In fact, that’s what the world is waiting for.