Own Your Story
“I stopped trying to embody everybody’s truth. I just spoke mine, and that’s when the power came.”
I wrote these words in my journal several months ago, after reflecting upon my creative writing journey so far. For the longest time, one of my battles as a writer was the tension between capturing the micro versus the macro. If the content of my writing didn’t capture this universal grand truth, applicable to all of humanity, was it even worth writing? It sounds a little dramatic, but often as creatives, we place this impossible burden upon our work – that it must represent all and speak to all.
This desire to carry universality in my writing brought clutter rather than clarity to my creative process. I was trying to work from the outside in, instead of the inside out. What I mean by this is that I was looking at external sources, external stories to give me language for my own narrative. What I understand now is that what comes from within us – our personal histories, experiences, and nuances is what adds to the wider narrative of the world. This isn’t to say that individuality trumps all – I believe wholeheartedly in the power of collective truth, shared experiences and solidarity. However, I’ve found that the first step to liberating words that feel locked up by writer’s block, intimidating ambition or uncertainty, is to simply write what you know. Write and trust the distinction and worth of what you bring.
Here are three little mantras to remember when beginning the creative writing process:
1. There are wells within you
Our lives are made up of thousands of encounters, interactions, observations and revelations. Whether we proactively document these or not, we are constantly processing and reflecting. One practical step to take is to commit to just ten minutes of ‘free writing’ (i.e. no editing or self-censoring) each day. Whether it’s two paragraphs or two lines – write something, and keep these writings in one place. This way, over time, you are cultivating this physical, literary well that you can come back to and draw out thoughts and ideas that you can develop and refine.
2. Your authority is in your authenticity
There is a weightiness and substance to what you write when it is true to your personal history. Whilst there is definitely a place for imagination and creative license in literary works, there is a certain depth that comes when what we create is not just a polished product, but is a product of our process. The journey that led us to the creative work, and the journey of completing the creative work, are just as important as the work itself. You are connected to what has affected you, and you are the most viable witness to relate your own narrative.
3. Perspective creates the masterpiece
Within art history and theory, perspective is the technique developed to create the appearance of three-dimensions (depth and space) onto a two-dimensional, flat surface. As a result, objects drawn or painted look increasingly lifelike and real. In this same way, when we write, centring our personal perspective, rather than being over-familiar with it, is a powerful way to imbue our words with depth and life. When we recognise and tap into the potency of the specific ways we see and perceive, writing and storytelling is transformed from being two-dimensional to three-dimensional: it comes alive and is real to us as writers, but also to our readers.
We document and archive what we deem as significant and valuable. When we take the time to write our stories, our histories and our truths, we ascribe value onto them – inviting those around us to find value not only in ours but in theirs too.
Written by our Founder and Director, Fopé.
(Photo Credit: Joshua Mohline)