I Am Not the Stories I Tell

two book covers: 'My Year With Sammy' and 'The Crystal Ballroom'

by Libby Sommer:

Sometimes when people read my stories they assume those stories are me.  They are not me, even if I write in the first person.  They were my thoughts and feelings at the time I wrote them.  But every minute we are all changing.  There is a great freedom in this.  At any time we can let go of our old selves and start again.  This is the writing process.  Instead of blocking us, it gives us permission to move on.  Just like in a progressive ballroom dance:  you give your undivided attention to your partner—keep eye contact for the time you are dancing together—but then you move on to the next person in the circle.

The ability to express yourself on the page—to write how you feel about an old lover, a favourite pair of dance shoes, or the memory of a dance on a chilly winter’s night in the Southern Highlands—that moment you can support how you feel inside with what you say on the page.  You experience a great freedom because you are not suppressing those feelings.  You have accepted them, aligned yourself with them.

I have a poem titled ‘This is what it feels like’. It’s a short poem.  I always think of it with gratitude  because I was able to write in a powerful way how it was to be desperate and frightened.  The act of self expression made me feel less of a victim.  But when people read it they often say nothing. I remind myself, I am not the poem, I am not the stories I write.  People react from where they are in their own lives.  That’s the way things are.  The strength is in the act of writing, of putting pen to paper.   Write your stories and poems, show them to the world, then move on.  The stories are not you.  They are moments in time that pass through you.

What is your experience? 

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15 thoughts on “I Am Not the Stories I Tell

  1. It’s exactly so! Exactly. But of course you present something of yourself. And that’s just what frightens sometimes some people. It’s easy to share happiness. It’s not so easy to share fear. Because people just fear fear. That’s quite natural. But Poetry still has the very power to dive deep into humans soul so they can also change and move on. That’s magical and still very real. Greetings from Vienna!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very few people read what I write so the question of my being confused with the narrator or a protagonist in one of my stories rarely comes up. But on the other hand, one of the things I love about writing is the opportunity it gives me to be someone else; or at least to write as if I was a different person. That can be so much fun; and so liberating too.
    BTW: congrats on the publication of your book. I hope it goes really well for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A brilliant post, Libby! I find release and a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me through my writing – and often this is in the first person but it isn’t me!! Quite often I have found people assume it is my story and I have to correct them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh, Annika. it’s so wonderful you comment on my posts sometimes. you are a wonderful support. yes, it seems to be very common that readers assume if it’s a first person story, it must be the writer’s own experience. it’s good sometimes to write as a character of the opposite sex, or as someone in a totally different age group. then we can say what we like and not worry about what people will think of us 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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