By: Terry Gassett
Exposing Ourselves in the Writing
Recently, a friend asked me, “How transparent should I be in writing the hard parts of my story”?
Wow! The $64,000 question! I think each writer must answer in his/her own way and in his/her own time. It’s easy to share the good parts of our story, but sharing the hard parts can be downright excruciating. It has taken me quite a while to sort this one out for myself and to find a way forward.
When you think of the word transparent, what comes to your mind first? Immediately, I think of something that you can see right through.
- A spotless window
- A sheer piece of material
Visible is Often Vulnerable
But in pondering a while longer, I realize that we can actually still see through a window with a few spots on it. There are degrees of sheerness in materials. And water can be a bit cloudy or muddy.
The dictionary definition, which defines transparent as being free from pretense or deceit, is a better description of what occurs as we write with transparency.
Our thoughts, feelings, and motives are often laid bare for the entire world to see. Consequently, the more we are transparent in our writings, the more vulnerable we become.
And there’s the rub. While we want to be honest, how many of us really enjoy feeling vulnerable? So what could possibly compel us to voluntarily write in such a way that leaves us open to possible judgment, criticism, ridicule, or rejection?
Because telling our story becomes more important than not telling it.
Safely Telling Your Story
Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone’s stories contain joy and sadness, pride and shame, success and failure, loss and gain. The balance scales weigh differently in each person’s life, but that doesn’t make the story any less important.
Most writers are, by nature, storytellers. We feel a compelling need to share the world as we see it, to ponder the way others see it, and to compare the two. We often write, not because we have the answer, but to find the answer, or at least to discern how we feel about the question.
Writing our story is no different. In writing our story, we get to choose how we will write it. We get to decide how transparent we will be.
There will be times when we will want to be completely transparent or open, and other times when a little opaqueness may be more in order.
There is no right or wrong way to do it. Find a way that works for you and go for it!
Filtering Your Story Through Your Values
Here are a few things I have learned that help me in deciding how transparent I want to be in writing the difficult parts of my story.
First, I run each piece through my own personal value system. The obvious first question I ask myself is – is it true? I say obvious because it should be, but there have been instances of less than scrupulous writers publishing memoirs that were later discovered to be fiction.
Then, I run it through these additional filters.
- Is there value in sharing it – either for myself or my readers?
- Am I violating anyone else’s privacy?
- Am I exposing anyone else’s shame?
- Is there even a hint of vindictiveness in it?
And lastly, I run it through my most important filter: Does the light of Christ shine in and through my story, and does the Hope of His redemption outshine the darkest places in my story?
Next, I remind myself of the compelling reasons I have for sharing the hard parts of my story.
Pain Sharpens the Focus of the Writing
Sharing also can bring needed insight and healing to our lives, as well as give others a glimpse into the insights and healing possible in theirs.
I discovered this quite unintentionally when I started sharing my story of “Le Jardin”, a lovely Country French Cottage and gardens that my husband and I had envisioned, designed, and built as a way to share a place of beauty and peace to those who needed it.
I had already shared here on Two Drops of Ink in “The Journey to Joyful Living”, the lessons I was learning as my husband and I left behind our home of 20 years and the little cottage and gardens we had added on just several years before, and began transitioning to a new location and a totally different way of life.
Our plans had been to move and sell our home along with “Le Jardin” to someone who would love it as much as we did. We hoped the new owners would continue to operate it for the purposes it had been built.
As it sat on the market for two long years, and we struggled to maintain the upkeep and expenses of two households, we were relieved when it finally did sell.
Writing is Courageous Healing
What ensued afterwards was something neither of us saw coming, nor was I personally prepared for the waves of grief that poured over me at the devastating news.
As a way of processing my grief, I began to share the story of “Le Jardin” from its inception to its destruction, post by post on Instagram. As I poured out my raw, wounded heart each day, I discovered that many others related to my story.
Not because they too had lost a bed and breakfast, but because they too had experienced painful losses and could identify.
Many also responded to my struggle to rectify the loss of a dream, with the goodness and mercy of Christ, or my struggle to maintain my Hope in Him and His Redemptive purposes even in the midst of pain and heartache.
I never expected the response I received, nor the requests to turn the posts into a physical book that people could hold in their hands or give as a gift to others going through grief. (A process I am now in).
Writing: Transforming the Broken
Sharing my story of “Le Jardin: A Legacy of Love” is an example of sharing a broken heart.
Many of our stories are also filled with shame, which is often the most difficult thing to write about transparently. Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way talks about the “unspoken broken.”
I see that as those things we hold deep inside us, those things that shame us to our core, those things we feel we can’t ever form into words and let pass through our lips for any other living soul to hear.
But finding a way to tell our story is one of the most powerful ways to break the silence of shame and loss and to begin the process of repairing what was broken.
For me, that makes telling my story more important than not telling it. And it makes it worth being vulnerable.
Jesus Follower, Wife, Mother, Nina, Life Coach, and Writer. Born and raised in the “Deep South”, I still live and work there. My husband of over 30 years and I have three grown children and three granddaughters, two who are twins. Living with us is a Chi Chi/Jack Russell perpetual pup.
I am a Life Design Coach and I work with Creative Christian Women to design lives of purpose, passion, and joy!
When not listening to women’s hearts through the coaching process, I am expressing my own through writing.
Currently, I’m writing my first book – Le Jardin: A Legacy of Love
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