Think of having a good, deep talk with your best friend—could be your spouse, your old college roommate, or your childhood companion. You’re sitting together over drinks, most of your dinner eaten, and you’re talking candidly. Your best friend isn’t afraid to ask you tough questions, and you return the favor. How many discoveries have you made about each other in this way? How many discoveries have you made about yourself?
Now think about sitting down to write in a journal—paper or computer. Maybe you’ve just lost someone you love, or you’re trying to figure out what most fills you with purpose. Maybe you’re more honest, less afraid of judgment this way. But you may also stop often, frustrated. You may feel less relief when you put down the pen or turn off the computer. It might be because you’re unsure how to answer your own questions, or because you’ve been asking yourself the wrong ones.
It’s a long metaphor, granted. But in a lot of ways, these situations mirror the process of writing a book with collaborators whom you trust vs. trying to do it yourself. I can vouch for that.
Many of you know that I’ve been working with Annie Hart on drawing out/writing/learning my own story. Annie has taken over my usual role as storyteller while I’ve become the client. This process has been full of play and excitement, but it’s also involved some tough moments and conversations, usually in which I admit or discover something in myself that I would have taken much longer to arrive at on my own. Why? Because we have no objectivity about our own life. We see it from the inside-out and it takes someone to look at it from the outside-in to help us truly be understood.
By stepping out of my usual, comfortable role, I’ve realized again that storytelling is a conversation. It has to be. If a book is one-sided—telling rather than asking, expecting instead of exploring—it’s meaningless. And likewise, if a reader isn’t willing to engage, to question, challenge, and discover new things about the world, their experience won’t be worthwhile either. In the hard moments, you need someone there to push you through; for the easy, fun ones, you need that same person to play with you while not allowing you to become complacent. Through it all, you need a conversation. That’s where your story lies.
Wanna join our conversation? Contact my assistant Lauray at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up our first chat.