As We've Always Been
Here are my first three commandments for personal storytelling: Never apologize, never brag, never complain.
Never apologize because if I had known better, I’d have done better. Stories about my life often focus on moments where I was not at my best, where I criticized someone unfairly, lost my temper, lusted, lied. Though I try to always apologize to the person I lied to or criticized, I can’t apologize to the reader so that they will know I’m actually a good person. I can’t care what they think about me at all. My job is to help that reader understand why lying or screaming or despairing seemed like a good idea at the time. My stories, after all, are never about what I did, but about the belief underlying what I did and how those beliefs changed.
Never brag because the reader doesn’t know me. I can brag a little to my loved ones because they occasionally want to hear when things are going well for me. The reader doesn’t care about me at all. They care about themselves. How can my triumph be their triumph? When I brag, victory belongs only to me. When I share a story humbly, victory belongs to everyone.
And never complain because complaint assumes I have no power. Every story is about my role in my own life, specifically my role in my own suffering. Complaint places all the cause for my suffering outside of myself. As a complainer all I can do is cry as loud as possible and hope someone somewhere does something and soon. I’m a spectator wishing my team would do better. As the protagonist in my stories, I must be in the game.
Moreover, if I’m writing about my life, I’m really writing about life itself, the thing I’m living in, the thing I’m a part of – the whole of creation, really. No tree will bend its branches if I complain that I can’t reach its fruit. My cat doesn’t care how much applause I received. I don’t need to ask a lake’s forgiveness for the rock I skipped across it. To see myself as no different than the tree, cat, or lake is to see myself as I have always been, to find the end of every story I want to tell.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com