“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, Bird by Bird
I’ve been getting a lot of questions from writers lately that go like this:
Can I really say that? Can I really tell THAT story? Can I really say THAT?!
Here’s what I always say to them, and what I’ll now say to you:
Whatever story is surfacing for you, get it ALL down on paper. And I mean all of it.
That thing that happened to you in middle school that you never told anyone about. What it felt like the first time you had sex. What it felt like the last time you had sex.
Your complicated feelings about your grandfather, his life and his death.
The fears and anxieties that are coming up for you during this time, the great pandemic of 2020.
All of it.
The parts you’re afraid to look at.
The parts you’re afraid for other people to look at.
If you are literally afraid to have these stories exist in black-and-white, handwrite on a piece of paper and then burn the paper.
Once you get it all out, you get to decide:
How much of my story do I want to share?
How much of the people who shaped my story do I want to share?
You get to listen for your own still, small voice – your own Knowing – and you get to share whatever aligns with that Knowing. And you get to keep to yourself what you want to keep to yourself.
Trust your Knowing.
It’ll sometimes ask you to share something that makes you want to vomit.
And sometimes there will be small details – or big stories – that your Knowing will want to keep inside.
Both ways are equally beautiful.
This, by the way, is why we need community.
Because writing, using our voice, telling our stories – these things are hard and scary sometimes.
A community of writers and readers helps us channel bravery when we’re feeling anything but brave.
Singing and dancing help, too.
That’s why my writing theme song right now is “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles.
Say what you want to say … and let the words fall out … honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
Here’s what I want to say to you, my friend:
I am stepping up and out. I am stepping into a business and a life and a writing career that are bigger than I ever could have dreamed.
I am excited and also kinda nauseous, most of the time.
I am planning my next writing retreat.
I’m honored to share this journey with you.
And I would be honored to hear from you: how are you doing? How are you *really* doing? Tell me how you’re faring during the coronavirus crisis.
P.S. All week I’ve been running a free Live series on Write Your Self-Help Book Now. You can catch all 5 lessons right here.
March 27, 2020