Online outlets are filled with personal essays written by people who have overcome obstacles and want to share their stories with the world. Publications accept and distribute those kinds of essays because everyone loves a good story with a moral. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, I don’t think I could ever do it. Write something about the most tragic pieces of my life and share it with millions of people.
Some days I feel like I am saying too much. As if I am being too open, too honest, too real. I often get the feeling people don’t want to read that or listen to that or care about that. But does it really matter what other people think? If I am allowing myself to be who I am and express that through my words, is that not enough?
I avoid writing things that are too personal even still because there are, and always will be, things I am not ready to talk about. Some people are fine with publishing essays about their experiences, but the fact that I’m not does not make me weak. It makes me cautious. That’s the problem with building a presence online (a small one, but still). We have to keep things professional and save the most personal ramblings for our own private prose. But that doesn’t mean there still won’t be points when we feel too exposed.
I have learned how to get over feeling vulnerable. I just tell my stories in a different way than some. I inject themes from my life into my fiction. That is the armor I need to face my tragedies. I live a great life, but life does not come without trials – some we pass, some we fail. I would rather look back on my past through the eyes of one of my characters. That is how I choose to teach others to overcome the worst of their days: through someone else’s story.
Whether you tell your own story or someone else’s, though, you must do so with the knowledge that once it is out into the world, it is not your story anymore. You lose complete control of it. People will hold it close or tear it to pieces or toss it to the side as if you didn’t pour out your whole heart and soul into writing it. If we are not careful, that can really hurt.
Everyone must find their own materials to build the mechanisms of protection that will shield them from feeling like their words are wrong. That is how you overcome the unbearable feeling that everyone is judging you or criticizing you or knows too much about you. It is how you save your confidence from dissolving. If you want to tell your story, you have a right to tell it. But you must choose the how, and the where, and the why.
In many ways I envy those who have said, “This is my story and I’m going to tell it to you now.” Perhaps I will always feel, personally, that doing so would make me feel too attention-seeking. That is not what I would want. If I have to spend the rest of my life telling my story through my characters, and that is what keeps me writing, and that is how I must cope, then I will accept that.
My only hope is that you find the strength to go confidently forward with your stories at the ready. Prepared to share in whatever way you choose. Prepared to open up your mind and your heart and show your audience that you are real, that you care, and that you understand.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.
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