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Day 31 – Where do I begin?

I get lots of e-mails and questions from people I meet about how to get started with writing. Since the mission of Higher Ground Books & Media is to help people tell their stories, I thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas here on Day 31 of the 47 Days of Self-Care project. For example, I was contacted yesterday by a lady who has had a very difficult life. She said that she wanted to write her life’s story, but she didn’t know where to begin. My advice to her was this; start with an outline. Although I’m not big on rough drafts, an outline can make a big difference in how well we organize our thoughts when we are dealing with a variety of life experiences that may or may not be attached to trauma. For some, there are points in our lives where everything we do is a result of trying to outrun a threat. Looking back on these times is difficult and the whole process can be trauma-inducing in and of itself. So, if we can organize our thoughts into a few major points with a couple of sub-headings to add detail to those experiences, we stand a better chance of being able to relate our story to others with some degree of readability and value. If we’re not deliberate about what we share and how honest we are about our feelings, actions, and reactions during those times, then we may end up with what amounts to a pile of word vomit that nobody will want to read, much less try and understand. And the point is that when they read about our experiences, they will be able to relate, at least in part, to the story we are sharing.

I suggested that this lady write the outline and then go back over each experience with the following questions in mind:

How did you feel during this period of time?

What factors impacted your reactions to the event(s)?

Do you feel that this experience was positive or negative?

How did your reactions impact the rest of your life?

What, if anything, did you learn for this event or experience?

If you can’t answer these things, then you may not be ready to write the story. You may need to go back through and look at the events again. Maybe these aren’t the events that are driving you? Maybe there’s more work to be done before you are ready to share. This doesn’t mean that your story isn’t worth sharing, it just means that you may have a bit more healing to do before your sharing will be effective.

I believe that everyone has a story and that eventually, they should tell it. It is our shared experiences that move us past the drama and into a place where relationships can be built, and healing can take place. So, when you’re ready, write that story. And feel free to drop me a note at if you have questions about the process. We’ll be waiting for your story.

47 Days of Self-Care is a blogging project that is being published between three different blogs owned by Author & Publisher, Rebecca Benston. Over these 47 days, she hopes to share thoughts and resources for better self-care. You can view related posts at Higher Ground for Life, at the Leading the Follower blog, and on the Higher Ground Books & Media blog.

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