We Are the Owners of Our Stories

You own your story.
I own mine.

As authors of our lives and the tales that our actions, feelings and choices produce, we are the owners of our stories. We have all the rights of ownership and that means that we, each and every one of us, gets to tell our tale. Doubts about what we are “allowed” to write crushes many writers before they even get started.

I’m a book coach who focuses on memoir, and a memoirist myself. I’ve looked at this concern of aspiring memoirists, bloggers and writers from most angles. This concern, the one that often stalls us putting pen to page, sounds like these comments I heard in a recent workshop I gave:

“What if someone is upset by what I write?”
“I don’t want to get sued?”
“Am I allowed to say this as long as it’s true?”

Some people are asking about litigation and how to wisely write about sensitive material without being the target of formal responses. But the deeper need I saw in the faces of people is for permission. We all want to feel like it is okay to talk about our lives, however intimately or publicly.  We are looking for endorsement and dispensation. We want the high five and a “You go, girl!” from somewhere.

Getting stuck while writing is ubiquitous…every writer knows the sensation. Most have succumbed to its grimy little paws at some point but some stay stuck and lean in to the muck and mire so much that they put the pen away for good. These folks have genuine reason to be concerned, yes. But when permission, the ultimate self-kindness, comes from our internal fire, we each will realize that owning our story is bigger than anyone’s reaction to our side of things. We are bigger.

This is where I come in with the question, “What do you want to say?” and invite the person back to the page, gently placing the pen back in her hand.

There are enough critics in the world and the Internet invites voices to climb onto our shoulders and not stop yapping. Let’s not be the critic that stops the flow of words – that therapeutic release of relatable moments in our lives that is memoir, life-writing, journaling and blogging. Your version of your life matters more than anyone’s need to take exception with it.

With rights come responsibilities, too. We must tell the story to the best of our recollection. I tell people this: “You must be your own fact checker.” Your memory is the warehouse of your story. Write from that place and be kind to yourself when the outcome is fraught with emotion.

We are storytelling animals. Humans are bound together, defying the fight or flight stress response to crisis, by sharing our tales of resilience and survival. Relating to your story will ease the passage through life for the reader and listener. When you think of it that way, isn’t telling your tale a generous act? When you think of your experience and the retelling of it as a gift, doesn’t that free you up to write about it?

In the words of one workshop attendee who shared that she strongly feels that her families’ stories need to be recorded, maybe even out in the world: “I’m more afraid of not writing than I am of someone being offended.”

Write on. Self-kindness dwells in the truth of your story. It’s yours to tell. Do it well.

  Patti M Hall is a writer, memoir coach and ghostwriter whose memoir writing inspiration brand lives at http://www.pattimhall.com.  Online Patti creates inspirational content for aspiring memoirists, wannabe writers and folks who love putting pen to paper.  Patti's real home is in Canada where she lives with her two giant sons and house full of golden retrievers.

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