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Do we all have a story?

May 5, 2010

Different writers face different advantages and drawbacks dependant upon their family structure, their experiences growing up and the choices they make on their journey through life.  Following Dales post pondering the gift we as writers can take from characters making bad decisions, I began to wonder if we all have a story to tell, or is limited to those destined to be writers?


A foundation piece of advice on how to start to write is to begin with what you know by writing your observations on everyday life. Many aspiring writers shy away from committing these words to the page as its often perceived that other people’s lives are more interesting, and that nothing much of importance happens to them.

For those who can remember the show, “The Waltons”, the eldest; John-boy had a passion for writing and had been given that exact advice – to write what he saw and experienced. Each chapter reflects on events  as the family grows up in the depression in Virginia. Perhaps its a little known fact that the series was based on Earl Hamners semi autobiographical book Spensers Mountain. Whilst perhaps Earl may not have believed what he was writing to be newsworthy or interesting to audiences, it serves now as a valuable historical reflection (where it cannot be classed as fact, due to its fictitious nature!)

In the previous century, a teenage girl, under the pen name Miles Franklin wrote the auspiciously titled novel “My Brilliant Career”.  She too, wrote of every day events and of normal peoples trials and tribulations. In turn, through her work, bringing to public attention the inequities of the sexes of the time, paving the way for feminists and female writers.

These are only two examples of well known works by ‘ordinary’ people going about ‘ordinary’ lives. I am sure, if I scratched the surface a little, I would be inundated with more examples. We, as a society, seem to  have been lulled into a false belief that a life-story worth writing about is a series of highs and lows; full of action and interesting characters. Reality instead, for the most part, sees our lives as a series of ordinary trials, errors and decisions without patterns or pitfalls. It is then most writers perception that it is not worth recording or commenting about and to seek other subject areas to start their writing lives with.

So, do we all have a story to tell? In no particular order of importance, here are my thoughts:

  • What is pedestrian to you, most certainly will be exotic to at least a small audience somewhere in the globe.
  • Write first. Worry about getting publisher or a book deal later. Write and prove you can do it. We are surrounded by those who talk about books they want to write. There are far fewer individuals who actually complete that vision. Write more, talk less.
  • Accept your past and all the experiences you have had as part of shaping who you are.  Don’t compare your story with others, but rather embrace where it is taking you.
  • Write from your whole self and from your passions. Your writers voice needs to be clear and authentic if it is to reach your audience in the manner you wish it. Flavour your writing with your sense of humour; if that is part of your personality.  If you like to talk about ideas, ensure they are liberally sprinkled in your writing. Anything less will be unsustainable along your journey as a writer as you are denying a part of who you are.
  • Particularly in this cyber age, where would most of us be without our blogs; at least in the early days to start us off? Certainly in publishing my own thoughts or reflections on events of the day, this brought confidence in my ability to share a message and begin my journey as a short story writer.
  • For most people seeking to ‘write’ the easiest place to start is where the heart is; your passions and your perceptions of the events which shape your existence.  However, simply writing a series of personal events doesn’t necessarily equate to writing – good or otherwise. Once you have started the flow of words, then it is up to you to learn the craft and to hone the skills required to get the outcome you are after with your writing.
  • Not every piece of writing needs to be focused on being published or submitted, or even for other people to see it.  We write because we must. We write because we have a message. Sometimes its hard to find out what that message is until we *start* to write.

Whilst its true that writers gain their inspiration from a myriad of venues including their surroundings and experiences, without the consistency and commitment of *just writing* the creative flow simply stops. Similarly, without knowledge of structure, theme and creating characters an audience will identify with, a writer cannot hope to improve their craft.

Can anyone write or is it only for the chosen few?  Perhaps its for the few that choose to continue to hone their skills within their craft.

Eschers Drawing Hands from Wikipedia

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Annie Evett is committing to getting back to basics with her writing and honing those flabby lazy skills who have had their feet up near the fire for too long. She’s going to start by *just writing* and talking less. Follow Annie here on Twitter and start your escape into her world here

  1. May 5, 2010 10:28 am

    I love this post because I often fall trap to the “my life is too boring to be interesting” belief. My father always told me that “everyone has a story” and a college professor later said the same thing, only adding “some are just told better than others.” The writing tips you’ve supplied are really helpful too. Thanks! 🙂

  2. May 6, 2010 12:22 am

    thanks Shannon.. I too suffered from this – but when I started to write it down – other people who read it told me how interesting it was… go figure…..I guess what we take from this is that we can’t judge what others will see in our work….so *just write*

  3. May 6, 2010 2:14 pm

    I’ve had the fortune of meeting many wonderfully interesting people in my life, and it’s always been my belief that everyone of them could fill a book with their adventures. I try to apply this truth to the characters in my own stories – thereby (hopefully) capturing some of that magic that makes life what it is.

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