Why Writing about Your Experience Is Not Narcissistic

by | Sep 18, 2017 | Writing 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.

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

Don’t Tell Me the Moon is Shining: A Golden Rule of Writing for Aspiring Authors

One of the trickier ‘golden rules of great writing’ that can be difficult to understand and execute is the ‘show don’t tell’ rule.

Keeping Faith

You can tell when someone is hungry. People who are hungry have dry lips. Chapped with dry bits that stick every so often when they talk. They do not pause to lick them, the frayed seams at their mouths. Most of my clients at (POWA) People Opposing Women Abuse, a...

The Turning: Reflections on Reaching 50

I am taking the business of turning 50 terribly seriously. I am dedicating the twelve months since my 49th birthday to this incongruous milestone, given that the actual age of my physical body – half a freaking century – and how I feel inside couldn’t be further apart...

The Biggest Birthday Yet

Good lord, it is two days to my 50th birthday. I am not ready to own such a majestic number, never mind have to blow out that many birthday candles. Also, it means I have to stop ‘turning’ 50 and just be 50. I have literally devoted my entire 49th year to getting to...

Writing Is Not for Wusses

Writing Is Not for Wusses... so Zip Up Your Warrior Suit (You're Braver Than You Think) Being a writer is not like any other profession. Our work is literally who we are. Not to laud it over book keepers or bakers who do an honest day’s work, every time a writer ‘goes...

Twelve Things Your Mum Was Right About

There’ll come a point in your life when you’ll suddenly have a flashback to your childhood. And it will be your mother’s voice. And you will concede – graciously or otherwise – that all those irritating things she used to say to you when you were a kid were actually...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.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

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This