Well, when they’re good, catharsis.
See, if it’s written, it’s real. Maybe that’s oversimplified, maybe it’s exactly right, but that’s the operating principle behind business, politics, law, religion, journalism, and the list goes on. A handshake, a story told out loud, a rumor spread, a verbal contract—these things are all ephemeral, subject to the shifting claims of their participants. But when it’s written? There for anybody who cares to read? Watch out: It’s on!
This is the supreme and almost mystical paradox for anybody wishing to tell his or her story—whether nonfiction or fiction—on paper. Until that story is written, it’s just a dream. It touches nobody but you and maybe those closest to you: your spouse, your parents, your kids, your best friends. But when it’s written, something magical happens. It becomes real. It can be revisited, reinterpreted, reimagined, but the words remain unchanged in each reading. Your story remains.
There’s an intense, almost unimaginable catharsis in this! Like years relating the same events and feelings out loud to your family, friends, or therapist, searching for different meanings in them that put the rest of your life into clearer focus. Realizing that focus is part of the emotional journey of telling your story. In fact, it’s one of the greatest parts. So get started! Think about the following questions:
- Is there a certain period in my life I think about more often than others? What is it? Why does this time period so frequently draw my thoughts and attention?
- Do I talk often about this time in my life? Why or why not? What stories do I tell? Why are they meaningful to me?
- Could other people relate to these stories? If so, how?
- Could the way my story has evolved impact other people? Why and how?
- What are my best and worst memories about this period in my life?
Start thinking and writing the answers to these questions. You’ll be surprised—and addicted to—how good it feels to get your story out.