Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

How to Write Your Story in 6 Steps

Note: This is a guest post by Claire De Boer, she is a certified Journal Instructor and teaches online workshops at www.thegiftofwriting.com. Download her free eBook, “Soul Writing,” and follow her on Twitter @ClaireJDeBoer. Claire’s passion is to help writers come to a new place of awareness and personal growth through writing their own stories.

These days everyone’s talking about writing your story. Not just any old story, but the story of your life, the road map that got you to where you are today. For most of us that’s a pretty daunting thought. I mean, why would anyone be interested in hearing our story anyway?

your-story-tell

Life changing

Well, I’m a big proponent of this personal story writing business, and I’ll tell you why: it changed my life.

I used to write fiction. I loved hiding behind the facades of the characters I created. But then my work led me into writing for a magazine where people share their personal stories, and I found myself on unfamiliar territory.

I actually had no interest in sharing my story—I wasn’t a fiction writer for nothing. I thought my past was empty and depressing. But given my role as both a writer and editor for this magazine, I really didn’t have much choice.

Resistance

So I sat down at my computer and with absolute resistance I began to write the truth of my life. I was full of fear—afraid to reveal my authentic self and the vulnerability that came with doing it. I was also fearful that no one would give a hoot about my story.

My resistance to the process resulted in quite the crappy effort. Apparently my chief editor thought so too. She sent the article back to me with these words: “go deeper.” Not quite the response I was looking for.

So I went back to my computer, stared at a blank page for a while and began to write. But this time I didn’t write from a place of resistance, I wrote from the heart.

The result was tears, not just on my part, but my editor’s too.

But more important than the tears was the overwhelming sense of release. In reconnecting with my story I somehow gave it a voice. I gave myself a voice that needed to be heard.

I have continued to write my story and to pursue the practice of helping others do the same. Not only do I believe that telling our stories is an important way to get to know ourselves and find healing, I also believe it’s a way to connect with others on a deeply authentic level.

You need to tell your story and share it with the world!

Declare it: click here to tweet this.

Where do we begin?

Writing our personal stories is the most vulnerable kind of writing we can do. We fear being laughed at, rejected, or that our words will be met with silence. And in turn, we ourselves remain silent.

Through the process I have found six important steps to be helpful: 

1. Tap into your emotions.

Your story won’t resonate with others if it is void of emotion, as I discovered when writing that first draft of my own story. So take out your paper and pen and write down some key feelings that you associate with your life so far. Then write something about each feeling and the story behind it.

2. List the turning points.

People often make the mistake of starting with their earliest childhood memory and moving through their story chronologically. But rather than starting at the beginning, it’s more helpful to make a list of your life’s key turning points—those times when you were standing at a crossroads and the direction you chose marked a significant change in your life.

3. Write everything down.

It might not seem like much at the time but it’s amazing how one memory leads to another and allows you to go deeper into your story. As with all writing, you may not use many of the scenes you write, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose. 

4. Use the senses.

The one thing that will help you explore long forgotten memories is to use your senses. As you recall events, try to remember the smells, tastes and sounds that accompany them. Not only will this help you remember details, it will also enrich your writing.

5. Find the theme.

Once you have compiled a large number of significant scenes, it’s likely you will begin to see a theme emerging. Your theme is the central question driving your story. The ability to carry this theme through the sequence of events you have recorded is what will turn your individual scenes into one story. It may be that you discover more than one theme. That’s okay; it’s likely there will be one that stands apart from the others. 

6. Tell a story.

You have your theme and a multitude of scenes; you’ve gone through a box of tissues in the process of exploring your emotions, but have you told a story? As you begin to work on pulling it all together, focus on the reader. What about your story will connect with him? The best stories are ultimately those that connect with the reader the most.

This process of telling your story is, I believe, one of the most rewarding and clarifying things you can do for yourself, and for others.

So step into that place of discomfort and write the words that will bring freedom and meaning to your life. Is it not time?

Are you writing your story? Have you found the experience to be healing? Share your journey and process in the comments.

About Claire DeBoer

Claire De Boer is a writer, teacher and visionary with a passion for stories and a strong belief in their power to connect us. She is a certified Journal Instructor and teaches online workshops at www.thegiftofwriting.com. She is also a contributor to The Audacity to be a Writer. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireJDeBoer.

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  • Linda Bridges

    Thanks for sharing this article on writing our story. I have been pondering this a lot lately– and like you Claire, I find my self writing fiction, hiding from revealing “me”. Your article gave me some good ideas of ways to start. Now– I need to just “do it!

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Linda – so glad my words resonated with you! I agree – you need to just “do it!”

      • emmanuel

        Hi, i read this and took my pen & paper

        im actually joining the crazy pieces of my story now, thanks for your help. what i don’t know is where to start from.

  • http://imanidealist.com Wan Muhammad Zulfikri Bin Wan

    Never thought that there’s a guide for writing our story. Thanks for sharing that, Claire. I still haven’t started writing my own story.

    My journal is probably a good start to do that.

    • cjdeboer

      Your journal is the best place to start for sure! Thanks for reading Wan!

  • Sheila Bergquist

    A wonderful article on this subject! I have found writing from the heart and sharing my story to be the best way to connect with people. Thanks!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for reading, Sheila!

  • http://www.rawstorylife.com/ Lorna Faith

    Love this post Claire ~ thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing your journey with all of us :) I really liked what you said here: “But more important than the tears was the overwhelming sense of release. In reconnecting with my story I somehow gave it a voice. I gave myself a voice that needed to be heard.” I really believe that’s the process I’m in right now !

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Lorna! Thanks so much for your kind words. Stick with that process of giving your story a voice – it’s worth the discomfort we feel along the way :-)

      • http://www.rawstorylife.com/ Lorna Faith

        Thanks Claire ~ hope so… because there’s definitely been some discomfort 😉

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Claire,
    I just now got to read your post. So glad you wrote it. I just finished launching my second book. BROKEN. It started out being my sister’s story of domestic violence and as I was writing what I planned I felt God nudging me to write my story as well. And I did. This launch was scarier than the first one. Because I feel exposed. And yet, I really want to help others. I loved how you started out writing something completely different and then there was a change. I’m also a poet and so I incorporated my poetry throughout my book. I’ll tell you what, it was scarier hitting submit when you’re IN the story.

    • cjdeboer

      HI Anne – thanks for your comment. Yes, hitting publish when you’re IN the story is pretty scary. Congrats on your book and thank you for sharing your story :-)

    • Mya Mont

      Dear Anne Peterson

      I wonder if you give some idea who can help me to write my true life story. I have so much difficulties experienced in the my entire journey in my life. An I am sure it will inspire others and will help also to the some children who had secret in their life like mine. I had been rape I kept it until to myself for 30 years, I have been kidnap after my husband funeral, I had been locked inside the house with food in UK without food by Arab family, I had been betrayed fro my friends and i had amazing love life story after 25 years. All of this thing I want to share it to somebody and I know someday will help to other people too…
      I hope someone can help how to start
      Looking forward to hearing you soon

      Sincerely
      Maya

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    Claire, lovely piece. I agree, it is so important and even necessary to share our stories. They are uniquely our own and are also beautifully connected to so many others. When we claim our stories, feel into them, we can have positive impact on ourselves and others.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Jackie – thanks so much for reading and affirming the value of writing our stories :-)

  • Deborah Paul

    Thank you for this article. I like what you said about the turning points and emotions. I don’t quite understand about the theme part. It is great guidelines to follow thanks

  • http://SheilaKimball.com/ Sheila Kimball

    Thank you, Claire. I absolutely agree with the points you made here about sharing our stories — setting ourselves free and helping others to grow. I have shared parts of my deepest self in stories in magazines and my blog but have only dreamed of weaving the pieces together into a memoir. Thanks for your encouragement! Blessings and Happy New Year.

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