Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Writing Your Story Could Be the Most Important Thing You Ever Do

Editor’s note: Claire De Boer is a writer, editor, and mentor with a special interest in how story connects and heals us. She is also a certified Journal to the Self instructor. Visit her blog to download a free eBook, Soul Writing.

Until a couple of years ago, I was a fiction writer. I didn’t understand why people would want to write about real life when they could create something far more exciting in a fictional world.

Your Story

Photo Credit: Tim Geers via Compfight cc

Creating characters and placing them in whatever situations I crafted for them was liberating, exciting.

The real life stuff? That got the big thumbs down.

That is, until I discovered the healing power of writing my story.

Becoming vulnerable

It happened by accident, really.

I was writing a piece for an online magazine and at the time I was going through a significant depression in my life. Unable to concentrate on the topic in hand, I could only think about this dark empty place in which I found myself, lonely and isolated. 

Every sentence I wrote was dry because I was trying to write in a positive upbeat way that wasn’t my current reality. Everything inside me resisted writing the truth because I didn’t want to admit to the way I was feeling. I was also ashamed to reveal myself to others. 

Finally, I realized I had to write from the dark place or not at all.

And so it was, from the deepest part of my being, that my words began to grow—like buds blossoming into snowdrops from the cold, hard earth.

Connecting with my old story

I allowed my memory to glide back in time, to re-enter a scene in which I ran away at the age of four and had to be returned home by a neighbor who had been out searching for me.

I focused on the details:

  • my mother sitting on the bottom step of our olive green-carpeted 70s stairs;
  • coarse caramel-colored wallpaper climbing up the wall beside her;
  • a radiator lined with drying clothes to our left;
  • how she pulled me into her arms and squeezed me so tight I could barely breathe;
  • the sound of saliva slipping down her throat as she swallowed hard.

In remembering these details, I felt the emotion again — the guilt and anger at seeing her cry once more. 

And as I relived this memory, I barely noticed the tears slipping down my cheeks or the stiffness in my hands from typing so fast. But I do remember the way I felt when I typed that last period.

Relieved. Released. Unburdened.

I began to write about many different scenes and circumstances from my past in the same way, always focusing on what I could see, hear, smell and see, and the emotions that accompanied me as I re-entered those memories.

And I became fascinated with the process of writing as a form of healing.

Writing a new story

Writing our stories and sharing them is one of the most powerful ways to grow and make that journey from the head to the heart.

By writing our old story, we find ourselves in the midst of a new story, one in which we have the freedom to be our true selves.

Since writing my own story, my walk with depression has changed considerably. I have come to accept it as a part of my journey and to realize that healing and growth are available to me if I tune into my needs via writing.

It may not be the whole answer, but it’s a tool, and an extremely effective one.

Where to begin

The thought of writing the story of your past, the lights and shadows of everything that has shaped who you are, can be a daunting one.

I began with my strongest memories and from there, new memories revealed themselves to me. I also bought some great books on writing memoir and finding your story, which helped guide me through the process.

You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.

Have you ever written any of your story? What was the process like for you? Share in the comments.

About Claire DeBoer

Claire De Boer is a writer, editor, and mentor with a special interest in how story connects and heals us. She is also a certified Journal to the Self instructor. Visit her blog to download a free eBook, Soul Writing.

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  • http://unlessyoucareproject.com/ Eric Ungs

    Excellent post Claire! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s such a profound experience, writing to heal. It’s so freeing. One thing I need to get better at is focusing on the details to bring about the deeper emotion and memories; in hopes of potentially surfacing new-old memories as well. Thanks Claire!

    • Piper Esse

      Claire, I can relate to so much of what you said because I feel that writing and sharing my story has finally freed me. As a fiction writer, I too danced around the truth until it slammed me in the face one day. After that experience I was slowly able to recover through writing. Then I discovered that writing about Bipolar disorder helped me to shed some of the shame associated with mental illness and might hopefully help others talk freely about it. I can relate to so much of what you said because I feel that writing and sharing my story has finally freed me. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • cjdeboer

        Hi Piper – Yes! There is so much shame around mental illness and writing about it is so helpful to those who feel the same. I recently wrote a post about depression (http://shelovesmagazine.com/2014/no-more-shame/) that tackles this exact issue, and the outpouring of support as people connected with the message was overwhelming.

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks, Eric! Getting to those deeper emotions can be a challenge, so I try to start with the places that feel the least comfortable, and then go digging!

  • Mike Sporer

    Writing one’s own story requires you to reach deep down. It takes commitment. It takes deep reflection into the soul. A struggle for me, but a worthwhile one.

    • cjdeboer

      Definitely worthwhile, Mike. If you’re struggling, I would recommend a journaling course to help with the process.

      • Mike Sporer

        Thank you. Made progress this morning. I’m finding that place in my heart more often in the quiet. Afterward, the words come.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    No, I’ve never written my story. I may write it in prison some day, where I’ll have plenty of time to reflect.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • Brenda Huddleston

    I hope I will get to the place where I can write my own story one day. I am a new writer, so for now just allowing my personality and experiences to show through in my fiction. I can see how it would be healing, but it will take courage to share your soul.

    • cjdeboer

      It’s definitely a journey, Brenda and does take courage. Keep writing your fiction and perhaps write the soul stuff in a journal? You’ll get there eventually.

  • Guest

    Thanks for your story Claire. It was really touching.
    I often use past experiences in my writing, both fictional and non fiction. I suffer with Crohn’s disease so in times of great pain, both physical and emotion, I find writing way to transfer those dark times into something beautiful.
    You are so right, writing is like a healing process.

    • cjdeboer

      HI there – I’m so glad you have found writing to be a release for you through your illness – keep it up!

  • http://www.kathrynshirey.com Kathryn Shirey

    I found that in writing my story I was able to see how I’d grown through the tough times. It helped me see better how the experiences – good and bad – have shaped me and how they can be used to develop my future. It’s been a powerful process!

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Kathryn! It always amazes me how powerful the process really is. We really aren’t the same when we come out of it.

  • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

    I couldn’t agree more, Claire. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Bryan :-)

  • Guest

    Thanks for your story Claire. It was really touching. You are so right, writing is like a healing process.
    I often use past experiences in my writing, both fictional and non fiction. I suffer with Crohn’s disease so in times of great pain, both physical and emotion, I find writing way to transfer those dark times into something beautiful.

  • http://jakeborrett.blogspot.co.uk/ Jake Borrett

    Thanks for your story Claire. It was really touching. You are so right, writing is like a healing process.
    I often use past experiences in my writing, both fictional and non fiction. I suffer with Crohn’s disease so in times of great pain, both physical and emotional, I find writing way to transfer those dark times into something beautiful.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    I LOVE this post. This is exactly why I feel compelled to write my way through life. For years, I feared looking at and facing my story but when I finally did it brought more freedom LIFE, and joy than I could ever imagine. Nowadays, I can’t imagine NOT writing down my story. It’s brought healing from so many painful parts and it’s prompted me to be grateful for so much. Writing your story is a great way to learn and grow. Thanks for sharing!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Eileen. It certainly is a process that can begin with fear because we have to be so vulnerable. But it’s so worth going to that uncomfortable place — I’m glad you took the plunge!

  • http://testimonytrain.com/ Bobbie Cole

    I knew I had to write down all the great things God did for me after He claimed in a Jerusalem church where, as a Jew, I thought I wasn’t supposed to be. He led me from broken by cancer, a failed marriage and a failed business to meeting and marrying my husband of faith in Atlantic Canada. The act of writing and publishing ‘She Does Not Fear the Snow’ taught me a lot about myself, about writing and editing and publishing, and a lot about my adopted faith also.

    • cjdeboer

      That’s a lot to write through, Bobbie. I think writing down our soul can be a powerful form of prayer and connection with God. I’m sure many will benefit from your story – thank you.

  • http://www.wendyjay.com Wendy Harvey Robinson

    I want to write my story. Not sure how to start. Niw that Ive read Claire’s story, ill use her advuce and start with the strongest memories. When I’ve tried before, my writing would start going in tangents. This would frustrate me and I’d stop. How can I avoid that?

    • cjdeboer

      HI Wendy. I think at first you just write and follow the tangents. In your initial scribes you don’t need to worry about whether it would fit into a book. Just let yourself go and write what comes. Worry about pulling it all together at the end.

      • http://www.wendyjay.com Wendy Harvey Robinson

        Thanks for that advice, Claire! I’ll do that next time I sit down to write instead of letting it stop me!

  • joyfulmomofmany

    Such a timely post for me. I, just this past week decided to be brave and begin telling my story on my blog. In the fall of 2012 I fled with my 10 children to escape an abusive marriage of 26 years. I was terrified to be honest about my very messy story, but hopeful that in writing it not only will I continue to process and heal but that I can also (maybe) be an encouragement to others who find themselves on a dark and rocky path which they never would have chosen. Ultimately, my story is one of God coming through and meeting us at every turn, and for that I am grateful.
    My blog: joyfulmomofmany.com

    • cjdeboer

      Hi there – I’m so grateful you decided to open up about your story and share it with others. So many abuse victims suffer in silence and NEED to hear YOUR story. What a blessing you are to them :-)

      • joyfulmomofmany

        thank you. I appreciate your kind encouragement.

  • http://www.eyesstr8ahead.blogspot.com Jene Barranco

    I started writing three years ago when my husband of 24 years died in an instant in a car wreck, just a few minutes after speaking to him on the phone. The following week I began to write about our memories together, my present pain, and where my faith stood in the midst of it all. Sometimes after writing it would feeling as if I had just given birth and I did not have to experience that particular memory or emotion again. Other times, it would rise up again and I found that I had to write about it again going even deeper and from a different perspective in order for it to be released completely. I called these boomerang emotions…you cast them and yet they seem to circle back to you. The healing power that came from facing my pain and putting words on those feelings was immeasurable. Honestly, I could not breathe, eat, or sleep until I wrote each day. I continue to write every day, only now it is about my present life and how God has brought purpose to my life through the tragedy. Writing my story has changed my life forever.

    • cjdeboer

      Wow, what an amazing story Jene – one I think many people need to hear. It seems like writing saved you from a very dark place. It really can be that powerful, yes?

  • sbornstein

    Three years ago, I started writing about my living and teaching experiences in India. As a middle aged expat, I had learned quite a bit about taking risks and living outside my comfort zone. My head was filled with ideas that I wanted to share.

    I wrote and/or edited every day for almost 2 years. During the process of writing, I realized how different events in my life were interconnected. As I wrote, I was able to piece together various segments and simultaneously weave together different themes. Professional edits allowed me to see my story from other people’s perspectives and fill in gaps that left a reader hanging. I also saw how small amounts of dialogue could improve the pace of my story.

    After publishing my award-winning memoir and blogging on a regular basis, I am able to connect with others, The power of my words has taken on its own character. I am thrilled when my followers gain something from my writing.

    I have to admit that at first I hesitated to reveal anything about my personal life. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized how much I grew as a person and how much I had in common with others. The writing process forced me to take time to reflect and analyze. I couldn’t help but become more aware of myself and others in the process. In retrospect, I am so happy that I decided to share my story.I encourage others to take the first step and start writing.

    • cjdeboer

      Sounds like quite the process! I think the most amazing part of sharing our stories is watching how they heal other people. Instead of judgment, we are most often met with love and appreciation – that’s when our stories become powerful.

  • Gshine

    Writing your own story allows you to examine the feelings that come flowing out onto the page. When you reread them later, it is easier to rationalize and discover what the meaning of those feelings and memories are. I have used self writing as therapy, we know ourselves better than anyone else in this world. Others can offer insight, but to truly know our soul we need to grow from within. Possibly one day I will share writings about my life but for now they are a very personal exploration that would be too intimate to go beyond the locked files on my computer :-)

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Gshine – I think the very act of you writing your stories for yourself is an amazing start. And one day, if the time is right, you will share them with those who need to hear them – be it in written or spoken form.

  • http://www.blessedbybrenna.com/ Courtney Westlake

    I have been sharing my story since my daughter’s birth over 2 years ago, when she was diagnosed with a severe skin disease. My blog is http://www.blessedbybrenna.com. It is scary and healing and emotional, and what I have found so interesting is that my biggest outpouring of reaction is when I share my struggles. Peopl relate and become educated and it opens up something in them when I open up about me.

    • cjdeboer

      It’s amazing how that happens, isn’t it, Courtney? As soon as you share the “Heart stuff” people begin to connect and process their own stories. Keep doing this!

  • Heather

    What great advice to start writing your story with your strongest memories! Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Heather!

  • Swati Hegde

    I’m a fiction writer, but I always incorporate details from my life into the story. Be it characters, emotions, or incidents… I definitely think every writer should draw from their own life, whether it be fiction or not. :)
    Great post, Claire!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks, Swati. I think all fiction writers are really just revealing parts of themselves and so fiction writing can be a great form of release too.

      • Swati Hegde

        Definitely!

  • http://maryloucaskey.com MaryLou Caskey

    Thank you very much for sharing this article. I look forward to learning more from you. For years, I heard that I needed to “write a book” because of so many things in my story that people want to hear. I have never been interested. I prefer speaking. To be honest, writing is my least favorite form of communication. It became evident that I needed to go ahead and get at least some of my story in the form of writing and my recent book shares some of this.

    • cjdeboer

      Fantastic, MaryLou! I’m so glad you decided to share your story in this way and hope it was a therapeutic process for you :-)

      • http://maryloucaskey.com MaryLou Caskey

        Yes, that’s right, thank you!

  • http://emtravelovers.wordpress.com/ Mai

    Thank you for reminding me about the healing power of words, Claire. I write what bothers me when I’m feeling terribly upset, usually in my journal and sometimes in my personal blog. It’s a sort of purging of emotions for me, and while the stories that I create are not exactly publishable, they help me cope with my everyday realities. Sometimes, I go back to them when my mind’s lucid enough and try to reshape them as stories worth telling. You never know what gems you’ll find in there. :)

    • cjdeboer

      Exactly, Mai! I always think that initial purge is just exactly that – a release of emotions. But there are always new insights and gens in there too – it’s amazing what you find!

  • Connie Rossini

    I am in the final stages of publishing a book of Catholic spirituality that ended up containing a lot of memoir. i can attest to the fact that writing about your hurts helps heal them. I am not longer bothered by the things I wrote about. I have dealt with the hurts and made them meaningful by sharing what I have learned with others.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love this. Writing can beak therapeutic.

    • cjdeboer

      That’s so great, Connie. I’m sure many others have benefitted from hearing your story too – that’s the beauty of it.

  • Sherri Adelman

    I’ve been working on writing my memoir. I’d be interested to know what books you, and Claire would recommend on writing a memoir. The writing is definitely therapeutic and helpful and it is my hope and prayer that my story will help to bring hope to others.

    • cjdeboer

      HI Sherri – one of my personal favourites is “Old Friend from Far Away” by Natalie Goldberg. I also find it really helps to read other people’s memoir’s to see how they weave present with past. Good luck!

      • Sherri Adelman

        Thank you. I will check it out!

  • http://themeaningmovement.com/ dan cumberland

    Writing has been a big part of my process of understanding who I am and how I want to impact the world. It’s hard work, but so healing! Thanks for sharing, Claire!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for reading, Dan! It is hard work for sure but so worthwhile :-)

  • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

    I had always thought of myself as an open book: unafraid to get “real” with people and be vulnerable, until I realized that I was really just trying to keep control and NOT really reveal anything too emotionally charged. Then I wrote my first book. It had a lot of autobiographical elements in it – stuff I’d never confessed publicly before.

    The cool thing was how people really identified with my characters. Being able to pull truth from my own story made the parable even more powerful – and because it was a parable, it felt more healing than revealing. :-)

    • cjdeboer

      That’s very cool, Lisa. I think we always fear how our work will be received, but when we actually have the courage to be vulnerable, there is greater connection on the other side.

      • http://www.lisarobbinyoung.com Lisa Robbin Young

        Definitely. I had never had such an outpouring of enthusiasm for my work before I launched that book. :-)

  • http://innervironment.com/ Joe Antonio

    Great post, Claire! I’ve written part of my not so bright past but it was more of a timeline with snippets of details here and there. What I find tough is remembering the intricate details. How do you remember the details and emotions of a scene in your life? What were some of the books that you mentioned that has helped you?

    Thanks for sharing this great post!

    • cjdeboer

      HI Joe the one that helped me with memoir in particular is “Old friend From Far Away” but I also have many books on journaling and soul writing that really help. “Writing to Heal” by James Pennebaker, “Writing as a way of healing” by Louise DeSalvo and “Writing through Darkness” by Elizabeth Schaefer. Trying to recall specific details is definitely a challenge. It helps to call on each of the senses and to also ask the people involved what they recall of a particular event (if possible). But ultimately you can’t recreate an event – you just have to get as close as you can. All memoir is based on perceived truth rather than actual truth.

      • http://innervironment.com/ Joe Antonio

        Thank you Claire. I’ll check out the books you mentioned. I also subscribed to your blog and got the free e-book. Thank you very much!

  • Heather Blackwell

    Yes. I have written my story in a self-help format, which I will also be free “e-booking.” I wrote it to help others but in writing it I somehow let go of the PTSD-related pain. Now, instead of experiencing it as if I was there again, I experience it as an outside observer.
    analyticalperspective.wordpress.com

    • cjdeboer

      That’s fantastic, Heather. To arrive at that place where you can acknowledge the pain but no longer feel its intensity is truly freeing place to be.

  • http://www.ipaintiwrite.com/ Pamela Hodges

    Hello Claire,
    Thank you for being honest about your depression, and how writing your story helped you heal. I wrote about being molested as a child. The writing helped me heal. Now I am taking the parts I have written on my blog, and I am turning them into a book. Hoping my honestly will help someone else heal. I will get the book you suggested, “Old Friend From Far Away.”

    This was the first story I ever publicly wrote about my past as part of an assignment from The Tribe Writer class, to write something hard. Tribe Writers truly changed my life.
    http://ipaintiwrite.com/2012/11/25/uncle-carl-molested-me-when-i-was-eight/
    I look forward to reading your ebook, “Soul Writing.”
    Sincerely,
    Pamela

    • cjdeboer

      HI Pamela – thank you for your courage in sharing about your abuse – I know you will help many others in doing this. I think it’s awesome that you’re turning your posts into a book!

  • Boyd Lemon

    Claire, my experience in writing and publishing my memoir, “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” was similar to yours in terms of its affect on me, something I didn’t expect. I learned so much about myself, much of it not pretty, because of my writing about my failures in destroying three families, I learned something about my strengths and weaknesses that I never would have understood and which has helped me through the loneliness and despair that sometimes accompanies life. In publishing it I also felt that I was imparting information that would help others in their relationships, and from the many comments I have received, I believe that I was right in that feeling.

    • cjdeboer

      Good for you for turning your experiences into memoir, Boyd. I’m sure your story is helping many, thanks to your courage.

  • Gretchen Guzman

    It’s very interesting that I happened to find this in my inbox this morning. I’ve been feeling blocked this week and it’s because I’ve been avoiding writing about what is really on my mind. When I ignore what’s truly relevant in my life at the time, my writing is slow and uninspired. But when I told my story about chemical sensitivity and accidental benzodiazepine addiction, my fingers flew over the keyboard and the tears flowed. It was very healing. It makes me think of something I read recently that said that your writing must first move you, the writer, before it will move readers. More people have read that story than any other single post on my blog. Thank you for this reminder to keep telling my truth, no matter how hard it seems. http://www.soundasacrystal.com

    • cjdeboer

      HI Gretchen – I do believe great writing flows from the soul rather than the mind and telling our truth is the most important thing we can do as writers. Good for you for having the courage to go there :-)

  • http://www.sherreymeyer.com/ Sherrey Meyer

    Claire, it must be coincidence that this post came along about the same time I posted a similar one on my blog, http://sherreymeyer.com. I too found myself experiencing a release, relief, an unburdening as I began drafting my story. It was unexpected; something I never dreamed of feeling. I encourage others constantly to go to the old stories, maybe the deepest and darkest place you’ve ever been, but when you start writing about it, a whole new world will be unveiled. Thanks for sharing your story with us today and encouraging others to do the same.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Sherrey – I’ll have to check out your post too!

  • Karyn Almendarez

    I am so grateful to Jeff for sharing your post! Your honest sharing motivates me to finish writing the my first book. It is a journey of faith and grief after losing my sixteen year old son in an early morning car accident. I continued teaching in a private Christian school, and as I shared personal stories my students encouraged me to write them down. My husband of three years is not my biggest cheerleader! I am humbled that anyone would want to read what I write, but my blogs and newsletter are gaining momentum.
    I look forward to following your writing. Thanks for the free ebook, and
    thanks for recommending the memoirs; I am anxious to take a look at them.
    http://www.karynalmendarez.com.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Karyn — that’s great that your words are gaining momentum and that your students have been so encouraging. Keep sharing your story – it will help many who have suffered a similar loss.

  • Rhonda Marie Stalb

    Jeff, Thank you so much for this post. It has really given me the encouragement I need to move forward on my writing journey.It can be scary to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. Some of the questions in my mind have been: what will people say or think? Will they just think I am having some pity party and living in the past? Will people connect with me or even read what I write? Thank you Jeff for giving a voice to these questions and more. If you could maybe you would hop over to my website and read some of the topics I have written about. Some might resonate with you and make you want to be a follower, which I would love because you are a true inspiration to me and my journey. My site is located at http://www.rhondamariestalb.com. Have a Blessed day!

  • http://writingkindwords.blogspot.com/ Amy Lewis

    This is how I started and now, 90 days or so later, my mind fills up with so many stories so fast my fingers can’t move fast enough and I get blindsided … I ever run into that writers wall (its more than a block) and then, as I play around and do the brain dump, the memories smooth out and the stories come again. It understand your statement about feeling relieved, getting the story out and actually having people read and like them, And that is enough fuel to keep me writing. I am remembering things my Dad has a hard time remembering, but he loves reading them, and shares them with other. I appreciate you as well, for sharing what you did and pressing the submit button. My desire is to keep writing and sharing stories that touch a cord with so many others … and I am so glad I ran into you on the Internet … it help spark the fire beneath me as well and I refuse to stop moving forward with all of the hidden memories I have to share. You are a great mentor/teacher and I feel blessed to have you as a guide for me. My site is http://writingkindwords.blogspot.com … thanks again, so very much. I look forward to learning more from you.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for your kind words, Amy. I love that you are remembering more details as you dig deeper – sometimes it can be hard to have clarity. Keep writing and sharing your stories!

      • http://writingkindwords.blogspot.com/ Amy Lewis

        Thanks Clair … I will keep going deeper and I appreciate your kind words. I know ever word I write is worth it. I am looking forward to sharing so much more!

  • Jeff Davis

    In less than one month I will have my first book published about my unusual and unexpected year overseas. Last night I was on the phone with my publisher and he said to me, “Jeff, this is a good book. But to make it great, you need to reveal more of yourself.” And that’s exactly what we’re doing as we go back and forth with the additional editing.

    Part of me is terrified. Part of me is excited beyond my wildest imaginings. Posts like yours help to remind me that I’m on the right path. Some people support me. Others don’t. Like Deepak Chopra says, “stay independent of the good or bad opinions of others.” Thanks for this post, reading this was definitely meaningful for me and came at the right time.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Jeff – I think it’s those vulnerable parts in a book that people really connect with so I would agree with your publisher – and Deepak Chopra! Congrats on the book :-)

  • http://www.sallyferguson.net/ Sally Ferguson

    Journaling, and then sharing, that story is therapeutic. When those memories are sorted through writing, answers also form themselves in the words written. It’s a great gift to be able to write!

    • cjdeboer

      It certainly is, Sally – thanks for reading!

  • Vaneetha R Demski

    Claire, loved your post. I wrote a memoir about my childhood and found it to be incredibly healing also. It was almost like I was rediscovering myself. I contracted polio as an infant in India and my family moved to the US so I could have good medical treatment. I lived in and out of the hospital for years, was bullied in school and struggled to fit in. My blog post this week http://www.danceintherain.com was about how writing about our past and facing it can help heal our wounds. We can see our scars in a new way- as evidence of a healed wound. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • cjdeboer

      That’s an amazing story, Vaneetha. We do see our scars in a new way when we write about them. I love your blog, and its name!

  • Eva Crone

    I had some horrific events in my lifetime that I had no way out of emotionally, than to write. I kept my notes stockpiled and then just recently self-published my first book, Wait till I’m Dead, (on Amazon).
    Unfortunately, I lost all in my life, (or so it seemed,) to get here- but it was in letting go that I finally began to understand the need to love oneself first, before you can truly be available to love another. I encourage anyone to share their life experiences with another. It is liberating and worth the exam.

    • cjdeboer

      HI Eva – good for you for publishing your story. It does seem like we are going back to a dark place when we explore our story but you’re right when you say that by going through it we are able to let go. i hope your book is a great inspiration to others.

      • Eva Crone

        thank you for your thoughts and well wishes. I really appreciate your input.

  • http://brucercross.com/ Bruce R. Cross

    Claire – great post that evokes thinking along this line. I spoke with someone this week, who after hearing our story, said essentially the same thing – your healing with come through the story and it has to be told so others can connect with it. The person speaking this to me deals with relational things on a national level. Your post reinforces the idea of doing so. Thanks for sharing it.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Bruce. I firmly believe writing is one of the most powerful tools for healing available to us. Thanks for reading :-)

      • http://brucercross.com/ Bruce R. Cross

        Claire – thanks for writing back. I sense a deep reason to probe your blog further and just added myself to your list. Looking forward to the exploration process….be blessed!

  • http://www.medicalaccountsolutions.com Misty Gilbert

    I began writing my story, the story to my courageous journey August 2013. I had been told for years I should by friends who knew parts of it. Though my story has never been a secret, I have never told all the details either. I never dreamed I would want to do this or that I actually would. It simply seemed like a novel idea. The process has been amazing. Though there are days that I fight to move forward through it, I continue. I will be open, authentic and real. I will fight all the negative reactions to those who don’t understand and family who can’t believe I would do this and not care what they think of it. I don’t have a title for my book. I love writing. I love the fact that I know my story matters and that it has a message to encourage others. After attending the Michael Hyatt Platform Conference November 2013, I bought a domain name in my name and will use this for my author platform. The encouragement from all the speakers at that event was absolutely amazing!!! I absolutely LOVED this blog post!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Misty! It’s so great that you’re feeling so encouraged -I’d love to attend Michael’s conference! I hope many are encouraged by your story :-)

  • Katrina Thomas

    Claire-I’m glad that you were able to take the risk to be vulnerable & share from the deep of your soul. I am even more glad that the process brought you some healing. I stumbled on a blog called oneyearofwritingandhealing.com about two years back when a lot of darkness was taking over me. I ended up writing my own experiences for a year (katrinashealingspace.blogspot.com) and was also surprised at how much it helped. To be able to put words to experiences and get them out so I could look at them for what they were was really helpful in the grieving process. There is something so powerful in telling your story–both for you as a writer and for others who are able to read it. Thank you, truly.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Katrina – I’m so glad you were able to find healing through writing. I think some people feel they have to be great writers to put pen to paper but I’ve found in my work that it’s those who have rarely written in the past that seem to gain the most benefit.

  • Angela Armstrong

    At my writers group at church I shared the story titled “Once in a Lifetime Moment.” When at 23 years I went to live with my Grandmother, after experiencing a terrible childhood with my mother, in particular who kept kicking me out of the house so she could have her boyfriends entertained. I spent nine healing and successful years with my Grandmother Beatrice, Bea, for short. I received my college degree, went to work for local government and saved 40,000 in the bank. I blossomed and helped my Grandmother when she had bypass surgery. The ultimate part of this story is me and my Grandmother found a grand friendship. We would have lunch under the skylights at the mall in Asheviile, NC. I went from a nondescript GED student to a successful employee. I took vacations to the Bahamas. My Grandmother nurtured me and told me what an important person I was. I doubt I will ever have such a happy time again in my life. I am very grateful for the time we spent together.

    My writers group gave me an ovation when I read this story out loud. I couldn’t get through it and had to give it to the woman next to me to finish reading. I was so caught up the emotion of that time period in my life.

    • cjdeboer

      That’s beautiful Angela – and what a blessing to now have that special relationship in story form. Wonderful!

  • Matt Howard

    After I wrote my story things that had previously been mysteries to me, like my resentment for my father, now made sense. Also helped me feel comfortable just being alone in my own skin.

    • cjdeboer

      I love that, Matt — writing is such a gift, whether we view ourselves as writers or not.

  • Laura Bennet

    Yes! My first published book, The Miacle of Us:Confessions of an Online Dater (find it on amazon) just released 2 months ago. It is one part of my story. Ihave another 2 in process as well. They were both very healing and encouraging to me and other people to. Fiction, I’m finding (working on 2 right now) can be also, but not to the same depth. I found your story very helpful (the in between one) as well as enjoyable. Being vulnerable opens up a place for others to be as well. Thanks!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Laura! Congrats on all the books – I’m pleased they have been so healing for you :-)

  • http://imanidealist.com Wan Muhammad Zulfikri Bin Wan

    “I could only think about this dark empty place in which I found myself, lonely and isolated.”

    Exactly what I felt when I was depressed one year ago.

    Every sentence I wrote was dry because I was trying to write in a positive upbeat way that wasn’t my current reality.

    This happens to writers even if they’re not depressed. The idea of being vulnerable tend to translate into the thought we are not good enough to be accepted of others.

    Vulnerablity is the KEY to acceptance and connection with others. The acceptance is not in terms of competency but it’s about rekindling the human spirit in us and using that reincarnated spirit to connect with others.

    You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.

    I don’t know if sharing our story can rewrite our future. Future can’t be rewritten because it doesn’t exist.

    Living in the present – I think that’s the power of shadings stories. It allows us to be in tune with our present by harnessing the power of our past.

    Have you ever written any of your story? What was the process like for you?

    I’ve written my own story and the feeling is hard to be explained. I find it to be an untangler of regrets and interviewer of my soul.

    Claire,

    Thanks for sharing your life story and how by writing one can help to heal us. I’ll need to write more of my own story after this because I feel that I’m disconnecting more and more with myself.

    That could be a sign of sickness. Lucky that I have a cure now.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Wan — I love the idea of writing our stories as being akin to interviewing our souls. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words.

  • Anita Dawes

    This not just a daunting prospect,Jeff, its more than a little terifying! But… what you say does stir something up in the grey matter. I will have to give this some serious thought!

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Anita.

  • Andy Castro

    For this very reason I’ve often said that we all should write a book. Not all books should be published but should be written. The work of writing is much like digging a well without a drill. You’ve got to dig through dirt, clay and rock to get to the cool healing water.
    Thanks for reminding me I need to pick up my shovel and start digging again.

    • cjdeboer

      I agree, Andy. I think people feel they have to be writers to share their story but that’s not true at all – writing is for everyone. Love the analogy by the way!

      • Andy Castro

        Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.bemoreunuversity.com Jimmy Burgess

    The best way to heal old wounds is to help someone else that is going through what you went through. My writing has given me the ability to share my story. I started out writing it to help others. By doing so, it has actually helped me. Great post.

    • cjdeboer

      Isn’t that the beauty of it, Jimmy? Sharing our stories is such a powerful way to connect and heal others. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Maybe because I heartily agree. I have just completed a book which is part of my story. It’s entitled, BROKEN: A Story of Abuse and Survival. When I started this story it was to be about my sister. Yet, I quickly realized I needed to put my life out there. Sure, I had written things about me and often shared them. I’m talking about sharing it in whole. So I did. The resistance I felt writing this book has been unbelievable. And yet, I felt compelled to write it. I had to. Thank you so much for your post.

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for sharing your experience Anne. When we feel compelled to write something I don’t think that urge goes away. Good for you for going ahead, despite resistance.

  • http://celiackiddo.wordpress.com/ Dana Schwartz

    I loved this post. My first instinct was to push back – write about MYSELF, no thanks. Not to say I haven’t written personal essays, but I tend to stick with fiction because writing about myself is very intense – as you know! But it’s also important (not to mention rewarding), and this post reminded me now vital it is, for all kinds of writers, to mine our own wounds, to uncover our vulnerability, because if we don’t, our other writing may lack depth, in my humble opinion, anyhow :)

    Thank you for reminding me to dig deeply, even when it hurts. Because that hurt is a gift, not just for my fiction, but for my soul.

    I look forward to keeping up with your wonderful blog, Claire.
    -Dana

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Dana – I think it’s true that writing our own stories in an expressive and vulnerable way does help whatever other writing projects we may be working on. And digging deep is initially painful, but like a balm for the soul :-)

  • JeanneLauree Olsen

    Daddy’s Girl

    By

    J L Olsen

    We were sitting next to each other,

    Chatting after church.

    His daughter came in and stood over
    him.

    Leaning against his broad shoulders,

    She began to rub the palm of her hand

    Over his buzz-cut hair.

    I watched, enviously.

    He didn’t stop talking with me;

    Just put his arm around her hips,

    The beloved daughter, adorably
    disrespectful,

    And, submitted, willingly, to her
    charming petting.

    And, I, the daughter of a different
    man,

    Locked up in his world of emotional
    pain and alcohol—

    Never really in my life—

    Sighed with regret and deep longing.

  • Ken Preston

    Hi Claire, thank you for sharing this. I agree completely that telling our own stories can be an immensely healing process. Don’t you think that fiction also has a role to play in this? Sometimes our hidden histories can come through fiction writing without us realising it. I have written many stories and novels featuring absent parents, especially fathers.
    This was a strong element of my own childhood, but one that I did not fully realise until I took counselling after a bout of depression last year.
    Unknown to me, my stories had a persistent theme that I had been unaware of.
    I have since written blog posts about depression and my own experience, which has proved valuable both for myself and my readers.
    Thanks again for an honest and insightful post.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Ken! Yes I do think our stories come through in fiction, but we don’t quite connect to them in the same way – it’s as though they remain on a subconscious level. I’m glad you’ve written posts about depression on your blog – there’s so much shame around the topic I think the more people write about it the better.

  • Shannon

    Claire, thank you so much for sharing. I have now gone to your website, downloaded, and read your book “Soul Writing.” As I enter a new journey where I feel God wanting me to help write other people’s stories, I think you helped remind me that I need to remember, process, and write my story also – because that is part of my healing journey and something I need to give to others. And yes, walking over the hurdle of vulnerability is the hardest part for me right now. And yes, I had written parts of my story before, for myself in my journal and little snippets on my blog – but it’s the fears and being vulnerable that get in the way… But I do really want to go there, even if it’s hard! Thanks again for the encouragement. I’ll continue to visit your blog and book.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Shannon. Have you read Brene Brown’s work? That will really help with the vulnerability!

      • Shannon

        I’ve read The Gifts of Imperfection and have watched a few of her videos – love her! I recently ordered The Emotional Hostage (not by Brene) too as I want to grow and am involved in mentoring/discipleship (recommended to me).

  • P.J.Baker

    Hi Claire, thanks for your honesty. Your story resonated with my own, and I think I’m currently gathering the courage to write my own story, rather than trying to cover over it or make it prettier.

    • cjdeboer

      Good for you, P.J. It definitely takes courage but you will be stronger for it!

  • LadyMcKermit

    This really landed on me. I say, “No one has a voice like Kermit, just like no one has a voice like you” this article illustrates beautifully how important it is to tell your real story, all of it!

    • cjdeboer

      Exactly! We can tell the same story in a thousand different ways but there will always be someone that needs to hear it through YOUR voice.

  • http://www.reclaimingyourfuture.com Reclaiming Your Future

    Strangely this is just about what I’m about to start to do. I’ve been a travel blogger/writer for a few years but I’ve recently discovered my love for personal development writing and am launching a whole new site dedicated to using my personal experiences to help others; it’s incredibly painful to write at times and tears stream down my face but it’s so therapeutic and I wouldn’t change for the world because I always feel so much better for being vulnerable and hitting the ‘publish’ button.

    Thank you so much for this post Claire – I felt like the Universe stirred me to read this at the exact time I needed to :)

    • cjdeboer

      I’m so glad you were encouraged by my post and that you are stepping into that vulnerable place to share your work. Many blessings to you!

  • eventer79

    Wow. This is a very powerful post — I think I just got gut-punched! In a good way (is that possible?). I am sitting on the fence about whether I should write the most traumatic part of my story on my blog or not. Part of me wants to share it as a tribute to the beautiful parts and because it led me to today. But part of me hesitates because (1) it is also partly another person’s story and (2) my mother reads my blog and it will make her cry (not about her, but a loss of someone I love that tore me apart). And in my family, we didn’t show emotions — funnily, I am comfortable sharing those things with friends and co-workers, but not with any of my family!

    But you are very right about the catharsis. Even during the trauma, each time I told the story, it got a little easier. Now it’s almost swing the other way! Since it is now a “normal” part of my life, I can tell people about it easily and briefly. However, it is sad and horrible and they end up horrified and shocked and then I feel bad for them, LOL. I forget it’s not “normal” for everyone else!

    • cjdeboer

      But it’s normal for *some* people and it’s normal for you. So share it for yourself and for the others who need to hear it. I have the same issue with my mother – it;s a challenge, but I think you have to be true to yourself first. And everything can be done with grace.

  • Ellen Chauvin

    I have just started writing parts of my story. A couple I have shared on my blog. Some I’ve written just for me…just for healing. Thanks for this post – it let’s me know I’m on the right/write track :-)

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for reading, Ellen :-)

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Great post, it really resonated with me. I am at a crossroad. I am torn between being that happy go lucky guy or sharing what I am going through to help others. I am scared to make the change to the latter given my audience (hip-hop audience). I feel like it will make me vulnerable and weak. I just need to pray for more guidance. Thank you for the fantastic post.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Praverb,
      Your audience may well change as you become more of your whole self. I don’t think vulnerability = being week, I think it’s courageous + healing.

      • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

        Thank you very much!

  • Tiara McClure

    I did this before, although I never finished. I’ve found writing about events in my life, whether joyful or traumatic, holds great healing power. It’s free therapy for the soul.

    • cjdeboer

      I love that’s it’s free therapy ;-)

  • http://www.thomasabeesh.com/ Abeesh Thomas

    I just wrote mine when I got your post. Perfect timing. Here is the story of my primary school days

    http://www.thomasabeesh.com/2316/the-memory-of-my-primary-school-days/

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for sharing, Abeesh!

  • Janeen

    Janeen

  • Janeen

    What about privacy issues of sharing your story- specifically medical conditions of your children? That struggle is part of my story, but I don’t want to impact their future negatively.

    • cjdeboer

      This is always a struggle, Janeen. Some people change names to protect identity, or they embellish the story and call it fiction, or they just don’t publish at all. Perhaps there’s a way you can stay true to the story whilst not revealing too much that could have a negative impact? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer, but I would say write the story, then make the decision.

  • http://takisathanassiou.com/ Takis Athanassiou

    Excellent post and insights Claire. I’m big fun of writing and writing (or re-writing) your story, is actually as rewire your brain in a way to see something with different perspective! The “I want to tell you a story” phrase, is perhaps one of the most strongest methods of communication and sharing ideas about us and the world we like to live in!

    Further more I big fun of a quote reads: “The future belongs to whom he prepare it” and I believe writing and storytelling is a crucial component in that equation! Thank you Claire for sharing.

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for reading, Takis. I’m glad the post resonated with you :-)

  • http://www.sacredoysters.blogspot.com Susan Anderson

    Reading this is perfect timing. I have been a little stuck, like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth stuck. Thank you. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Susan – love the peanut butter analogy! I hope it comes unstuck for you soon ;-)

  • CE Watson

    When my mother was diagnosed with her terminal illness, it turned my world upside down. I found that keeping a personal journal helped tremendously to work thru the emotions, fears and and the day to day changes we are going thru. Somehow putting thoughts and emotions to word make it all clearer and more manageable. Recently a friend encouraged me to post my journey on a caregiver blog to share what I was learning thru the journey. Both experiences have been healing and helpful, just as Clarie talks about here. Even if the blog doesn’t help anyone else, it has tremendously helped me! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you for sharing your journey with grief and how writing through it was healing for you. I’m sure many will benefit from your story – thank you for that!

  • http://www.risingabove.com John O’Leary

    Wow you nailed it – Claire. Until we own our story – we are not able to live up to the fullness of our lives.

    When I was nine-years-old, I was involved in a house fire that I was not expected to survive. After five grueling months in the hospital, my family and I put this chapter behind us and “got back to living.”

    Fast forward 20+ years, my parents decided to write the story of our fire, as a thank you, to the friends and family who helped us through it. I didn’t think there was much of a story to tell, but supported their effort.

    They printed 200 copies of their book Overwhelming Odds to give as thank you gifts – nearly 60,000 copies have sold since. I immediately began receiving phone calls from folks wanting me to share “my story” of hope with them…that is how I first owned my own story. That is how my speaking career began.

    Today, I travel the world sharing my story in an effort to inspire others to own THEIR stories and live the fullness of their possibility…what a gift.

    Thanks for sharing and for ALL that you do, Claire. J

    • cjdeboer

      Wow – what an amazing story, John – sounds fascinating! You have experienced the healing and connection that comes with sharing your story first hand! Thank you for doing that!

  • Pam

    Great stuff! I just recently released my story via a blog. Very powerful feeling. Vulnerability is courage not fear. http://www.secretsinakitchencabinet.com/my-story/

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for sharing, Pam!

  • http://rickwolff.com Rick Wolff

    The exploration and exposition I have no problem with… It’s the releasing that I won’t do. It’s none of anyone’s business. I won’t sacrifice my privacy.

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Rick – hats off to you – it’s entirely your decision of course. I think there are two possible steps to the process – the first is to write for your own benefit, the second is to write to help others. How far you take those steps depends on your own comfort level. Good luck!

  • http://www.callbox.com.sg/ Dara Lin

    By writing a true to life story and experiences we had face in life, we come to realize that we are lucky we had survive and still stepping forward in facing the next chapters in our life. Sharing it with others will trigger to inspire them. Recalling old memories and writing it down will make us feel better because what happened back then, bad or good, will remain as part of what we are right now.Two thumbs up for you Claire!

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Dara!

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    “You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.” WOW!

    • http://brucercross.com/ Bruce R. Cross

      Ken- tripped across this post again as I was playing with my Kindle and your comments on the article by Claire.

      Your comments leaped off the page and are nearly prophetic to me…as it is the third or fourth time in the past month it has come to me…thx Bruce

      • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

        Wow…thanks Bruce.

  • http://www.clarkgaither.com A. Clark Gaither, MD

    Awesome, because it’s true!

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