Writing Tip: I am not the stories I tell

greyscale photo of man and woman
Photo by Mukesh Mohanty on Pexels.com

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.

I hope these thoughts are useful. Do you have anything you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

This is what it feels like

When a single thought

may darken and trap,

terrify, for no apparent reason.

A storm

in your senseless head.

Whatever the thought,

think implosion of self

or crazy,

any thought you have held

in tenuous reality

like lead in the chest.

Say you were heavy footed

downhill and it made you

want to stop.  At midnight

driverless cars advance on you,

but where the hell is the brake?

Copyright © 2018 Libby Sommer

9 thoughts on “Writing Tip: I am not the stories I tell

  1. This is so true, Libby. I remember a friend in my critique group who had to introduce every critique session with the reminder that this wasn’t her story. Everyone assumed it was. Sometimes, they once were or we wish they were but really, it’s why they call it fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with each word you have shared Libby…most of my poems are in first person but they don’t depict me. Yes, putting pen to paper gives me freedom to touch the clouds and feel them. The delight of an emotion, when shared is inexplicable.
    Lovely poem! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. true. i write mostly in the first person pov, and although i feel more connected to my mc this way, it’s not my story. though if someone wrote on the 1st povand said it’s not my story, i’d have my doubts.
    i like the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, very true. we do the same thing ourselves. find it hard to believe when people deny the story is about themselves when they write first person. unless we write opposite sex, very big age difference. but of course part of us is always in our writing. glad you like the poem. many thanks.


  4. None of my characters are all me, but all of my characters have some of me in them, even the obnoxious ones. But none of that really matters because readers invariably invest the characters they read about with their own prejudices and turn them into their own personal fiction anyway.
    BTW: congrats on the book launch. You’re on a roll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, that makes sense that all of your characters have some of you in them. as you say, readers project their own interpretations on them anyway. thanks so much for the congrats. yes, i’m on a roll. i’d written 5 book length manuscripts before one was accepted for publication – so now i have a publisher i’m sending them to him one a year 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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