I started meeting with some younger writers about three weeks ago. (And yes, younger refers to their ages not their writing abilities.) We’re getting together to share what we’re writing, help each other with writing problems, and encourage one another. Sounds simple enough, right?

Sure, if you don’t mind being vulnerable and turning yourself inside out for the world to see. Readers who have never written something intended for an audience beyond an English teacher may not have experienced the odd combination of terror and excitement that comes when you first read your own work to people you don’t know well. I imagine, however, that most can identify with this sentiment pulled from my About Page:

Sometimes it feels like our story isn’t worth sharing. It’s not as perfect, polished, or awe-inspiring as the person next door…we feel like our lives are just a trickle in the grand scheme of life.

Have you ever compared yourself and felt that way? I do this more often that I like to admit, but now, whenever those feelings rear up inside me, I remind myself how ugly it is when my eyes roll back into my head and stare at myself rather than looking outward as they should. It may seem that keeping focused on others means we shouldn’t talk about ourselves, but that can’t be the answer. We’d become a planet of mutes, which is difficult to imagine. And what about exhibitionism, tattle telling, slander, gossip, soap operas, and the like? We all know people who have no filter or can’t stop talking about themselves or use story as a weapon to hurt others. Do I really want to encourage that kind of behavior? The answer is, of course, no. So what am I saying?

Have the guts to own who you are and know your story. Be ready to share your story* when it can redeem the moment and encourage others.

I’m working on owning my story. I still stumble over my words when I am put on the spot and must reveal I’m a writer. On the other hand, I’m becoming less afraid to share other parts of my story—scenes and chapters that in the past were too painful to even think about much less verbalize. Think about your life. When have you experienced pain, failure, or embarrassment? Now, think again. When have you experienced good, beauty, and redemption? Think on those things. Share them when prompted. What’s your story?   *When I say “story,” I don’t mean that you tell the 15-volume, one-million-word version every time you share it. In life, abridged versions are usually desirable.

Photo Credit: L. Yost