Writing about your real life is a tricky dance. Your life is your petri dish. You examine the things that happen, you make notes, you pay attention to small details and you consider whether you can unpack them to reveal something larger, something like a story. Moments become metaphors, lessons, things you want to understand better and share.
If you’re good at it, you’re able to take these small moments of your life and crack them open to reveal the creamy center, the universal kung foo, the place where my story becomes your story, becomes a blessing or a teaching for us all.
I believe we’re all made of the same stuff. We have different experiences and we have our opinions and different ways we stand in our stories, but we all understand what it is to long for something – love or connection. We all know what it feels like to feel small and overlooked, unseen and unimportant. We know exhaustion and defeat. We all know envy and what it is to have dirty thoughts about people we love. We know joy too – the feeling of riding a lucky wave – or just being suddenly happy for no reason except that the song on the radio has just changed your world.
And that’s where telling true stories and using authentic, down to the studs language in your writing is really helpful. When you lay it on the line and don’t try to hide or be too clever, people can connect with you, and then they can connect with themselves. And that’s part of the reason why I write. I’m really trying to make us into one big family who speaks the same language so that when I write, “A week after my divorce went through my ex-husband moved back home,” you’ll consider that sentence, roll it around on your tongue and be a little hungry for more. You’ll be more curious than judgmental.
As a writer, that’s the challenge, the sacrifice I’ll make – putting my real life on the page and really having no control over what others will think or say. It takes strong guts. Especially when you post something and five people drop off your mailing list and you’re like GULP. But if you start writing for everyone, if you are trying to make other people happy, if you’re afraid to lay it on the line, get deep into the kung foo truth about things, then I don’t know what you’re writing or why you’re writing.
I face this each and every time I blog. I ask myself, “Really? You’re going to write about your husband moving back into the house after a year and a half of separation, right after the divorce has gone through?” And it’s not that I have to write about everything that goes down around here – Lord knows there are lots of moments that never reach these pages. But I am interested in the important things. And I’m interested in what’s on my mind. Especially if that thing is unusual – like a husband who’s not your husband anymore, but a human being who you really like – moving back home.
I think these kinds of stories are important because we don’t hear about them enough. We hear about that dirty rat – we hear about the broken heart – but we don’t hear about the way we can return to one another – or what it means to keep a deep connection with someone and allow the form – the marriage – the container – to change. That’s one of the things I’m interested in writing about. That’s one of the things sitting in my petri dish.
If you’re interested in what’s in your petri dish and you want to take a good look, consider joining me for Telling True Stories, my 5-week online class starting on October 6th. It’s a goodie. We’ll dig together. Learn more here.