It takes a lot out of me when I write. Well, some pieces take more than others. Sometimes I write something and I sit back with a smile on my face. Yes, I say to myself, that is lovely. (Forgetting for a brief moment that not everyone might feel the same way.) But then there are pieces that leave me empty when I’ve finished them, drained of emotion because writing the words cost me something. After writing such a piece, I sit back exhausted, feeling vulnerable and exposed. Should I even publish this, I ask myself. Is there a reason to tell this story?
I’m a rather private person. I’m slow to open up, even slower to trust. There are things about myself I’m hesitant to share. To tell my secrets, my struggles, my hopes and fears in some ways gives others power over me; the power to hurt me or judge me. As if I’m standing in the middle of a crowd naked, the secrets and struggles of my heart written in black ink on my pale skin for all to see.
And for me, that is what writing is like. Every time I sit down to write in honesty and transparency, I’m revealing something about myself. I’m giving something up, and that is never easy. I’m sharing a piece of myself that perhaps no one else is aware of. To write is to lay my soul bare with my heart on my sleeve, and some days I wonder why I do it. What is the point of it all?
Why do we tell our stories, I wonder.
What is it that compels us to share such intimate ideas and details with strangers? Because I’m not sure it’s enough to say, “I write because I have to.” Not that it isn’t true, per se. There is something within me that begs to be unleashed, words that need to be set free. For me, writing is like breathing. I simply have to. There is no other choice before me.
But I don’t think that’s why we tell our stories. I don’t think that is why we are willing to open up and give people the chance to shut us down. I don’t think we share our stories because we have to. There’s more to it, I believe. I think we share them because there is a voice inside of us that whispers, “The world needs to hear this. This story is bigger than you. There is power in your story.”
I think we tell our stories because we are the only ones who can. We are the only ones who have been where we’ve been, seen what we’ve seen, felt what we’ve felt. Our experiences are ours alone, there is something powerful and beautiful in that. No one sees the world exactly from the place you do. Your past is a gorgeous story. And you are the only one who can share it with the world.
Because, just maybe, there is one person out there who needs to hear where you’ve been and how you’ve come through. Maybe they need to hear that you survived the storm, so they can have hope that they will survive their own. Life often feels like being in the midst of a war, with the world and with yourself, and perhaps someone else needs to hear your words of triumph in that battle.
I don’t tell my stories for me. I already know them and live them everyday. I’m well acquainted with them because they are a part of me. No, I tell my story for that one person out there who is meant to hear it. I write for the person who is struggling, who has lost hope or is just lost. I write for that one email I get that says, “I thought I was the only one.” Because you are never the only one. You are never alone. And you should never have to battle through your struggles without an encouraging word in the lonely darkness. You should never feel isolated or adrift in the world you live in. No one should. Ever. And our stories are what allow us to meet each other in the middle.
A quote I adore reads —
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
—The History Boys
And that’s what writing should be, I think; what storytelling should be about. It should be for the moment when we can wrap someone else in our words and make them feel lighter, perhaps as if they are coming home. We should tell our stories to heal, to strengthen, to empower. Because in telling our own stories, we give each other the courage to keep going through this messy life. We give others the courage and will to share their own. By sharing our stories we share something beautiful. And each story is a thing of beauty. It is gorgeous and lovely, just like the person who has lived it, and it deserves to be shared.
I believe the world could use more beautiful things.
And I believe that each of us has the potential to share something more amazing and wonderful than we could ever imagine.
Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.