To tap in to your deepest talent, you need to seek out a calm, restful state of mind where your heart can bloom open a little.
- Amy Karr
Feel, Don't Tell
In other courses, you may have heard the writing advice, “Show, don’t tell.” My approach is different. My advice to you is, “Feel, don’t tell.” When you appropriately feel the story you want to write, you engage in a deeper process. Feeling your story heals you, improves your storytelling, and provides an emotional connection for your reader.
Right now, you may be feeling too much or too little when you explore your stories
The symptoms of feeling too little often show up as:
- A sense of boredom with your life story
- A belief that “my life isn’t interesting”
- The ability to retell your story in detail, but without emotional response.
- A general sense of despair and/or meaningless can accompany this psychological space.
This course will help you overcome these barriers of feeling. Stay with the process when you feel irritated or bored (that is often a part of you trying to stop you from feeling) and you will get there.
The symptoms of feeling too much often show up as:
- A sense that you are reliving your story when you try to remember.
- A feeling of disruptive, emotional overwhelm when you consider this work
- A general fear of emotional chaos or overwhelming anxiety can accompany this psychological space.
- Note: If your symptoms of feeling too much are not able to be contained in the process of space and ritual outlined below, you may need to consider additional outside supports like therapy or a support group as you work through this curriculum. Reliving your story is not therapeutic. Working with a therapist can help you find some distance to observe and not relive your past experiences
Please know that this course is not going to force your greatest hurts and traumas out of you. You are in complete control of what you choose to explore. If you have a painful story to tell, you might not be ready to do that yet. If you are ready, that is okay, too. Most women start with easier stories, not harder stories.
As you continue your writing project, you will experience deeper psychological healing that will cultivate more self-compassion and understanding. This will add complexity and depth to your storytelling ability. Big goals? Yes! But I’ve worked with countless women and experienced this process first hand. You can do this, too.
Write Ugly and for No One!
You may have a goal to write something that someone else will eventually read. But we are not there yet. What you write in the first part of this class should not ever be shared with anyone, ever. You are free to talk about your experience of writing or some insight you gained while writing, but sharing the exact words will contaminate your necessarily private process. This absolute privacy allows you to write stuff that is ugly, angry, whiney, messy, awful, and/or any other negative quality that you feel is private, embarrassing, hurtful, or shaming. We need to protect your ability to “write ugly” so that you can go deep enough in your explorations to find your story. (Later drafts will be better! But we need this raw material as step one.)
Create Your Safe Container
I am asking you to engage in a deep therapeutic process outside the container (and protection) of a therapist’s office. I need for you to cultivate a safe and contained space in which you can do this writing work. This will involve both the selection of space and inclusion of ritual. Before you get started, please complete the following:
- Space: Create a safe and sacred space to do your writing. The creation of that space can be as simple as placing a comforting blanket or memento where you will be writing; do some symbolic action that cultivates a feeling of safety and sanctity for you. Please honor your process by finding a physical writing place where where you know you will not be interrupted by other people. (Pets are fine and probably helpful!)
- Ritual: Create an opening and closing ritual that will start and stop your writing process. Telling your self that this exploration is something you can begin and end will facilitate the safety and depth of your work. The ritual can be as simple as lighting and extinguishing a candle, saying an opening and closing prayer, mantra, or affirmation or anything that works for you. Just be certain there is an opening and some definitive closure so that you can put away the difficult stuff that you may have brought up
- Support: Develop a plan of action for what you will do if you get emotionally overwhelmed. (This is infrequent, but does occur in this course.) Please identify a safe confidant whom you can call if you need support.
- cheap spiral notebook
- smaller cheap spiral notebook
- pretty and comfortable pens or pencils
- 3x5 notecards
Therapeutic Writing Tools: I’m going to ask you to write your exercises longhand, rather than on a computer, if possible. The work you are doing in the first few weeks will be challenging. Writing these exercises in a cheap, spiral notebook that feels “disposable” frees you up to write in the messy and unstructured way that will facilitate your process of finding your story. If writing longhand is too painful or not possible, a keyboard does work great. (I am in this category, so know that typing your way through this course works, too!)
StoryList: Your small, cheap spiral notebook will be where you jot down the snippets and stories that come up over the next few weeks -- your StoryList. I encourage you to carry this small notebook with you. I will bring your attention to this most days, but your use of your StoryList notebook is not just for these exercises. If something comes to consciousness in the grocery store, grab your pen and notebook and jot it down.
Your work will be both fun and challenging. If you've decided to work through this curriculum, it is likely that your stories or process feels “stuck.” Everyone has a different reason for that, but the common ground is that pushing through that 'stuckness' will challenge you. That might show up as boredom, frustration, anger, or disinterest in the exercises. I encourage you to stay with the process when you feel these things. In order to find your story, we need the big, messy pile of content that you might not always enjoy creating. (But sometimes you will!) It is from that messy pile that you will find the story you are ready to tell.
Women use the Find Your Story curriculum for varying goals, so I'd like for you to identify yours. Write in response to the following prompt. Treat this like a messy worksheet exercise - start, stop, scratch out, throw away, start over until you feel like you’ve got a goal that feels right to you. If this is your first time through this course, I encourage you to start with a modest goal, like "I will find a life story that I am ready to write.” You will have the most success if you are patient with your process and set goals that are not too overwhelming. (I strongly discourage you from choosing to write about your greatest trauma on your first time through; learn the process with a more manageable life story and tackle the big stories later.)
When I finish this course, I hope that I will have…
My goals for you:
By the end of this workbook my hope is that you will have emotionally connected with your story, identified a specific life-story you are ready to tell, moved your confusing narration of life events into a basic story structure, and created a plan of action to get you to your first draft.
Ready to get started? Get your materials together and I will see you for the first exercise.
What we need is more women writers, writing for older women.
-- Kathleen Turner