Do You Write Personal Stories?
As a writer how do you approach writing personal stories? I want to share my most recent article, It’s A Bittersweet Responsibility-Caring For Your Ex on ThirdAge, a boomer website. The story tells my view of what it’s like taking care of my chronically ill ex-husband, who lives in an assisted living facility. I often write personal stories even though I read them on that wider screen and cringe a little at having been so revealing. I do so because I believe there is value in sharing and in acknowledging issues that invite readers to feel less alone. Or maybe I do it because in my real life I tend to talk too much? Who knows. For me, sharing helps ease my burden just a little. And, the best way for me to do that is to write. I am a writer.
Is writing personal stories for everyone? When I’m writing personal stories it’s easier to warm up to a topic. There is very little, if any research and the words flow for me. And, if I’m comfortable with the material and in the right emotional place, I have almost no editing and rewriting to do.
Over the last few years I’ve shared a variety of experiences that have arisen from my care of the ex. Hours in the emergency room, the unexpected burdens, both financial and emotional. We’re getting ready to transition to a nursing home and I’m applying for Medicaid for him as well. This will undoubtedly provide me with more material for writing, from the emotional and practical point of view. The current article in ThirdAge is about what it’s like to be the caregiver of your divorced partner, spurred on by a research article on why women find themselves in this position. I took a less “Pollyanna-ish” approach to the topic, something I could do as it was ‘my’ story. You can’t do that for most client writing. The story has already gotten 12 Likes from Facebook and 2 tweets as of this morning. I think I probably struck a chord, an unspoken one about the burdens of caregiving. And, yes it is a burden. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking any of us voluntarily enter into situations like this, though that’s a rather simplistic statement.
Writing the personal doesn’t work for everyone. You have to be a little thick-skinned. The writer who tells personal stories has to be prepared for any possible repercussions. Everyone who’s written a memoir will tell you that, but knowing it and contemplating all the possibilities is a bit complicated. But, life is full of complications and unexpected events. People do what they need to do and they react in ways that are often unpredictable. The key is to remember why we write and what we expect that writing to yield. I want people to read my story and find a place of connection, to know what others experience in a real, honest and personal way. The only way to do that is to risk. To write.