Don’t Talk Your Stories Away

When a writer talks too much and too revealingly about a work-in-progress–especially at the early stage before the writing has taken shape–the energy to get the story written is often scattered. Sometimes what passes for a writer’s block is only a failure to relate to your stories in a way that’s conducive to getting them written. This may seem like a writer’s block but it’s not. It’s really poor writing discipline!

People have an urge to make their stories public–in any format that will satisfy the impulse. Talking over a cup of tea may be just as satisfying a release as shaping a memorable poem or novel or life story.

In human development, of course, speech comes first and writing, later. The first impulse to make a story public, therefore, is likely to be to speak it rather than write it.

Hemingway once remarked that more novels were lost in the rambling and endless conversations that took place in the charming, congenial cafes of Paris than were ever written in the city’s famed garrets. It will always be easier to talk eloquently about writing–especially over a glass of vin rouge–than it is to climb resolutely to a chilly, walk-up garret, enter it alone, and really write.

If remembering or reminiscing is your goal, then you will not feel that you are dissipating energy when you talk your stories. You will not have any problem with rambling on in endless conversations. But, if you want to shape your stories into interesting and memorable autobiography that can be shared with future generations or a wider audience, keep your story to yourself. Only in that way will the energies that are thrusting to be made public be channeled into writing. Otherwise, like someone who nibbles chocolate all afternoon, you will find yourself with little appetite left for supper–no matter how delicious and nutritious.

It invariably comes down to this: if you talk your story, you will retain little energy to write it. Your production will begin to resemble that of the Paris writers who squandered their stories in the cafe conversations.

What do you want for your life stories: words scattering in the air or a published account?

Good luck writing!


About Denis Ledoux

Denis Ledoux began helping people to turn their memories into memoirs in 1988. Denis was named Lifewriting Professional of the Year by the Association of Personal Historians in 1996. Today, Denis is a writer, educator, teacher, autobiography co-author, memoir-writing coach, editor and publisher. He directs The Memoir Network, an international group of memoir professionals who use his method and materials to help people write lifestories. Denis also offers writing tele-classes and leads memoir writing tele-groups.
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