Why Writing about Your Experience Is Not Narcissistic

by Sep 18, 2017Writing Tips

As writers, we sometimes shirk away from writing about our own particularities because we don’t want to be ‘narcissistic,’ or ‘self-involved.’ It’s a good point. Our internal musings about our childhood, illness, divorce or particular form of heartache may bore and annoy readers unless we learn how to shape our writing for connection with a reader.

How do we do this?

We connect with readers by what I call, the ‘exquisitely personal universal statement.’

What is it?

It’s a deeply personal moment perfectly captured, offered to the reader with a hard-won sense of the meaning we have made of it. The more personal and particular the insight, paradoxically, the more deeply readers connect with it. Humans are suggestible – story evokes emotion in us, which hooks into our own cache of (very different) memories.

When an insight is richly conceived and the work of deep internal labour, as we read it, there’s a kind of recognition, as something deep in our own psyches arches towards it with a ‘yes.’ It’s as if a writer who has gone in deep and stayed down there for long, has returned with an insight we, as readers can hold as our own. It lights up our own dark places.

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

As writers, it’s our job to go as deep as we can. We can only ever take our readers as far as we have gone. The harder we work to get to our own emotional truth, the more that shows up in our writing. Our writing cannot hide our experience – it reveals who we are. Which is why it’s easy to spot cliché and trite platitudes. They’re recycled thoughts, regurgitated ideas. They are limp and loose because they are borrowed. They are not bespoke. They’re one-size-fits-all. Our words should never have that quality. When we write, it is our chance to offer something that is truly our own.

As readers, when we stumble across an exquisitely personal universal statement, we get a gush of oxygen. Poetry is full of them. Poets are in the business of devising these sorts of offerings. For the reader, it’s like sipping nectar and we get a boost in our own sense of what is possible when we come across them – they help us sharpen our own insights and look afresh at our own truths.

This connection is almost energetic, auric. It’s as if the truth in me responds to the truth in you. As writers we should strive to find moments like this – not only because it creates a connection to our readers, but because our work is worthy of such effort:

 

I Want to Write Something so Simply by Mary Oliver

I want to write something
So simply
About love
Or about pain
That even
As you are reading
You feel it
And as you read
You keep feeling it
And though it be my story
It will be common,
Though it be singular
It will be known to you
So that by the end
You will think –
No, you will realise –
That it was all the while
Yourself arranging the words,
That it was all the time
Words that you yourself ,
Out of your own heart
Had been saying.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

What Is My ‘Voice’ and How Do I Find It?

When we start writing, we’re told we have to find our ‘voice.’ Naturally, we begin looking for it.
It’s not under the pile of unopened mail.

Why I Struggle to Share My Writing on Social Media

“You should share all your work on social,” an editor told me firmly, some years ago. And from then on, I did. Every time one of my articles was published, I dutifully posted a link to Facebook. And each time I felt miserable, as I anxiously awaited the...

Bringing Inequality Back into the Bedroom

I came to marriage by a circuitous route. As a radical feminist, I avoided it, certain it was for unintelligent girls who had no aspirations to travel or write books. I was never going to be ‘given away’ or called ‘Mrs’ Someone Else’s Surname. Working with abused...

How to Salvage Your Writing from the Crematorium of Cliche

Aspiring writers sometimes ask me, ‘How can I write like you?’ The answer is, ‘You don’t want to write like me, you want to write like you. You want to find your writing voice, and that will be nothing like mine.’ But I get what people are really asking me. They’re...

Where Is My Writing Voice?

When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my...

Spotlight on Michele Susan Brown

Happy International Women's Day. I hope you're going to make some time for yourself today - to listen in to your heart, and to reconnect with the life inside you that is only yours. Maybe do something kind for your body. Give it a compliment. A massage. A dunk in the...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *