“The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.”
–Sam Keen, writer
In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle–and not so subtle–messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal authenticity.
One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is to tell his/her story with honesty and objectivity. At its best, this is what a memoir is–a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”
Lest you think that telling the truth is only about revealing scandals and unmasking abuses, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues, issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. Perhaps you were never ambitious of worldly success. This has embarrassed you but you would like to make a statement for another set of values other than financial success. Or, perhaps you have been attracted to people of your own gender and would like to bear witness to that but still fear repercussions. Or, perhaps you were a parent but, if the truth be told, you and your children might have been better off if you had not parented. As you can see, “telling the truth” need not be earth shattering, but it is about incredibly essential features of ourselves.
The daring part of this “telling the truth” work occurs strongly at the beginning of the writing–when the “juices are flowing.” It is then that you ask, “Do I dare say this?” You get nervous and feel yourself sweat. You get up from the computer many times and can’t believe that you are actually writing what you are writing. But, you persevere and later the piece of writing becomes one you work and rework and the fear of telling the truth seems to diminish, to be come less visceral.
Later, however, as you make your writing public–i.e., publish it or share it with others, you tremble at the boldness once again of telling the truth of your life, the truth that may not be consonant with norms of society or family expectations. Others–an audience you both craved and did not know would be so intimidating–will now judge you. You fear this audience will not only judge your choices but your very essence as a person.
This moment of judgement is, more than any other time I believe, when writers fear being found insignificant.
But, if insignificance there be, I say–and I hope you will too–“Let it be MY insignificance! Let me stand proudly for who I am.”
Therein lies the challenge of telling the truth. It can revolutionize your life by placing you at its center. Not a bad place to be at all!
Your task this week: write a story that is scary for you to write. Tell yourself, for the moment, you are writing only for yourself and it’s alright if no one else ever sees that story.