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How Much Of My Personal Challenges Should I Share In My Writing?

Written by: Cori Wamsley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

You’ve slogged through, battled uphill, burst through the challenges… and you’re still standing! Now, you’re ready to start sharing your story with your audience to inspire them to succeed, empower them to achieve, and ready them for the light at the end of the tunnel, the next level, or another big move in their lives. But that story you’re carrying around? It’s super heavy! Maybe it’s incredibly painful, maybe it’s dangerous or angry, maybe it’s punctuated with abuse or neglect. No one wants to read that. Or do they?

Your story is a touchstone that many seek out because they have a similar story.


It’s ok to share it. In fact, you need to, especially for those who are scared, uncomfortable, or not ready to share their own.


In some cases, someone going through what you’ve been through is going through it alone. So you really NEED to get it out to help those who need it the most!


But knowing that people need to hear that story to guide them through their own journey isn’t enough.


You need to know exactly what to share and how much of the darker times you want to share because you:

  1. Want to make sure that you aren’t triggering your reader.

  2. Want to empower them, not drag them down.

  3. Want to be mindful that your book or other writing don’t come across as airing dirty laundry, complaining, or whining.

That’s a tough balance to strike!


When people listen to stories, they react on a deep level because they become engaged in so many different parts of the brain. In a recent NPR Health Shots article,¹ a study of people listening to stories was mentioned where researchers discovered “that the brain networks that process emotions arising from sounds—along with areas involved in movement—were activated, especially during the emotional parts of the story.” ¹ Our brains strive to understand and create connections, so it’s important to get your story right.


When I work with writers who have these tougher stories, we look at a few things during the story mapping process that helps us navigate those potential issues by sharing the darkness but focusing on the light.


Here are some important questions to ask when you’re mapping out your writing.

  1. What does your reader most need to hear? In this case, it’s less a description of abuse, for example, and more the emotions around it and how it affected you. For your own healing, it may feel good to sit down and write about an entire scene like this because it helps you work through emotions and acknowledge what happened, but it can also make your book an incredibly tough read, especially for another survivor. Also, please remember that when you’re writing a personal story, you’re not writing in the horror or mystery genres, where detailed descriptions may be more prevalent. Sometimes it’s hard to stop ourselves in the middle of writing and say, “Hey, that’s not the kind of book/article I’m writing!” so if you feel like you NEED to write about the heavy stuff in a more detailed way, absolutely do. Just remember that this is a draft, and don’t be married to every word you’ve put down. If it can be written, it can be erased, which is a good thing! If you don’t feel like detailing, then think about the emotions and the effects. Write about them. Don’t make your reader guess how you were feeling. They will absolutely connect because they were there before.

  2. What did you wish someone told you when you were going through this? Basically, the flip side of the previous question: What did you most need to hear? This is what I like to call the “higher perspective” that you only get when you’ve experienced something and can look back on it … or when you read about someone else who has. You might share about something and comment that it wasn’t helpful to you and then talk about something else and say that it was. At the time, you didn’t know if journaling or attending a support group or any of the other actions you took would be helpful, but now, looking back, you’re able to give the perspective of someone at the end of the tunnel, so share these important insights with your readers.

  3. Does this relate to the story? Especially with heavier stories, it can be tough for the writer to let go of pieces of the story and recognize that they don’t relate. We often want to remember every detail, every part of the day, every step of the way and feel like those things are important to the story because they are important to us personally. The personal slant can be hard to disengage from, so a good question to ask about each piece of information is “Does this relate to the story?” Is it a tangent? Does it add anything as far as information, important details, etc.? You may fondly remember eating pancakes and drizzling syrup on them, cutting up strawberries … but the reader may wonder why you’re talking about them at all. If eating yummy pancakes in the middle of your experience is pretty common, sure, talk about it, but if it’s not, sorry, but the pancakes should go on the chopping block.

When you are finally done, especially if this is a piece that will be published and have a lot of views, work with a trusted editor who can help you trim and tweak your draft. You’ll want the help from someone who understands story and can make sure you’re giving your story a lighter touch in all the right places. And always remember that your experience is important and sharing it helps others gain from your strength!


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Cori Wamsley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Cori Wamsley, CEO of Aurora Corialis Publishing, works with business owners who have a transformational story to share. She helps them quickly and easily write and publish a book for their brand that helps them create a legacy and be seen as an expert while building a relationship with the reader. Cori has 17 years of experience as a professional writer and editor, including 10 years with the Departments of Energy and Justice and 4 years as the executive editor of Inspiring Lives Magazine. She also wrote eight fiction books and one nonfiction book, The SPARK Method: How to Write a Book for Your Business Fast, and contributed to two anthologies. Her newest book, Braving the Shore, was released in June 2022.

 

Reference:

  • [1] Renken, Elena. “How Stories Connect And Persuade Us: Unleashing The Brain Power Of Narrative.” NPR

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