The storytelling process is often described as healing; it lets us explore situations on a deeper level. There’s nothing like uncovering heartbreak, letting wounds heal in fresh air; however, it takes courage to bare your soul in a way that’s often public and raw.
Even truths told in allegory can be difficult for the person saying them. Readers see an eloquent passage, but the storyteller knows what it means. Many are afraid to express themselves through writing, because it’s often too powerful.
Sometimes it isn’t done on purpose. After publishing Dissonance, I looked at scenes I’d written and marveled at how personal they felt. I’m not dealing with the same situation as Allie, but truth slipped through the cracks about my greatest struggle at the time I was writing it.
I would elaborate on this, but it would spoil Dissonance and I want you to read it! To keep it short, storytelling heals—it’s not just a cliché. If true, the words come from your soul; you never know what’ll come to the surface of your manuscript.
You might be nervous about writing for this reason alone, and it’s understandable. Here are three tips for people who want to use storytelling to heal. I hope you try, because the struggle is worth it.
KEEP A FICTION JOURNAL.
If you’re struggling with the past, someone might already have told you to write in a journal—so I’m going to take it a step further. Keep a journal where you write fiction. There is truth in fiction, though many scoff at it for being fake.
The fact is, you might find more truth in fiction than traditional diary entries. Fiction allows us to push boundaries, expressing truths the way our hearts see them. With fiction, we have no limitations at all.
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.
Don’t force a story if you aren’t feeling it—that just adds to the stress. Unless you’re on a deadline, there’s no hurry to get the chapter polished. This story is meant to help you heal, and no one may ever read it but yourself. You’re doing it for you.
Besides, writing is rarely good when forced. Set small goals, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t reach them. What matters is that you make the effort, because over time you’ll craft a story, and the effort will pay off!
AVOID SETTING LIMITATIONS.
In a first draft, you’re allowed to break the rules. Play with genres to find one that lets you express yourself best. It’s also fine to have fun and combine several. The point is to get your message on paper so you can see the big picture.
What we want is to understand ourselves; no one is the same, so our work can take any shape or size. Since you don’t have to publish this piece, allow it to be different—even if only you understand it!
The most powerful stories are based on real emotion. A lot of people think telling the truth means crossing a line that shouldn’t be touched; in reality, there might be readers experiencing struggles similar to yours. Over time, you might write the story they relate to best, helping them cope in a personal way.
Remember, though: This writing should exist to help you, the storyteller. Don’t rush it for the sake of fame. Your masterpiece will come when it’s ready; it’ll be worth the grueling, often painful process of putting words on paper.
Let’s fill the world with writings of truth; nothing is more original than the story you’re living now.