How to tell Personal Stories Through Blogging (And Avoid the Narcissism Trap)

How to tell Personal Stories Through Blogging (And Avoid the Narcissism Trap)

It’s not easy to write a first-person story in a way that will interest anyone other than your mother. In fact, “this happened to me” and “here’s what I think” posts are what earned blogging its narcissistic reputation.

But then a writer like Lisa McKay comes along and so eloquently shares her own personal story about her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Only she’s not writing in retrospect, with the insight of knowing how her story will end. Instead, she’s telling this tale as it unfolds.

Lisa points out just how hard this is to do in yesterday’s post, A Note from the Messy Middle:

I’ve been thinking this morning about … [how] good writing usually has beginning, a middle, and an end. It tells a story. It has a point; it’s not just an unfiltered brain dump.

We’re thrashing around in the middle of this story right now. Even though it only started just over three weeks ago, I can hardly remember that part anymore. The ending is still a long way off. And in the messy, map-less middle of this ugly story, all I’m pretty much capable of right now is an unfiltered brain dump.”

Except that anyone who reads the post knows it’s more than a brain dump, that Lisa manages to find a point even when writing from the messy middle. Her honesty about how she feels might even bring you to tears.

Lisa’s able to share her personal stories in ways that resonate with readers in part because she has practice under her belt; she’s the author of two memoirs, including her recent Love At The Speed Of Email, which chronicles how she fell in love with her husband Mike.

We don’t often feature individuals’ work here at The Write Life, but Lisa’s latest posts are solid examples of how to tell personal stories well, whether through a memoir or on a blog, a goal so many writers struggle to achieve. As you root for her family over the coming months, be sure to learn something from her writing, too.

What other bloggers tell personal stories well? Let us know in the comments!

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37 comments

  • Christian says:

    I write in first person on my blog and strive a great deal to avoid the narcissism hole that most writers put themselves in when sharing personal stories. I mostly write to travelers and dreamers, but maybe you guys can tell me what you think.

    I am grateful to “The Write Life” for all that you do. The inspiration is phenomenal to me.

    http://www.christianstheory.com

    • Thanks for the kind words, Christian!

      I think you’re right, it’s a challenge to avoid the narcissism hole. I’m looking forward to exploring your blog!

      • Denine Blas says:

        I tried to log onto http://www.christianstheory.com and it says that the page cannot be found. I have been trying to blog about my life, I have shared the pain and agony of what I went through being adopted, the hospital I was born in and finally, the excitement of coming full circle of accepting my adoption.

        If you would care to read, please do and share your insights.

  • Robyn LaRue says:

    I blame the INFJ, but I do filter everything through my own experiences and worry constantly that I might be perceived as narcissistic. I’ve yet to find a way around that except to be humble and honest.

    • I think you’re on the right track, Robyn — being genuine and humble is a pretty good strategy. It’s a fine line to walk!

    • I am on this site because Im seeking advice. I am a writer and have been writing since I was young. I recently met with a publisher and he told me to start a blog and that I need to get a following. The only thing is I don’t even know what a blog is supposed to look like. My point in responding to this particular comment is this: I write with my own hand about my own experiences, but when it comes out it flows. Its not me. My hand is merely being used by my higher Self. I’m not thinking about what I’m writing or how it will turn out. I meditate on having the power of words, but I am only human, if I am to touch others by sharing my stories of rape, abuse, broken homes, drug addiction, forced religion, and how I crossed the threshold from darkness to light…how I’ve come to find a higher state of consciousness because of my suffering, then it is to be only assisted and I must realize that anything truly creative or touching comes not from us because of us, but from something that we are all connected to. There are no mistakes….I am creating the big today…it will be up later. Best of luck to anyone reading this with the same dream as me!

      http://www.goldenblyss.com

      • Lucy says:

        The thing about publishers, or being a professional writer, is that you have to prioritize getting readers, and that means (a lot of the time) that you compromise your integrity, and purpose for your blog, which is to talk about your experience in your own words, and it ends up being about what other people want, and that then means tailoring or editing your content to satisfy others, instead of yourself. I’m a writer too, but I won’t change my blog for readers, or to make a penny. I use my blog as a tool to help my with my experience and journey, and that is a choice every writer has to make – will they compromise themselves for a dime, or perhaps keep a humble following, but always keep their words genuine, and true to their perspective and passion.

        • Adriana says:

          Thank you for posting this answer. I have a blog of my personal stories which I am trying to combine with some sort of “message” to the reader. But as you say it Tailoring for others blocks my writting. I write for myself then I try to give something else to my readers. Check it out: ariadnathread.com

      • Linda Schardine says:

        Keep up the inspiring words, I am a first time blogger and want to share my story through grief…. we all need to know we’re not alone
        http://mysterioustravelingypsy.blogspot.com

        Linda

      • Hi Alyssa, you can start your blog here, it”s very simple and very user friendly buildyourownblog.net
        With Matthew Loomis.

  • deb palmer says:

    Thank you for addressing this problem. I am a new blogger – a two post start. And, yes, I have already been asking myself this same question. Why would anyone want to hear about my experiences?
    I see myself as a storyteller, so I am hoping this will keep my readers’ interest.
    I’d like feedback on my blog if anyone has the time.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for a great article! I started writing about the adventures I take with my dog Molly and the lessons I learn as we walk, run, or hike or way through the morning. These lessons help me stay a depression and anxiety survivor and embrace a new, fun life. I worry that the stories might come across like I’m bragging. I really hope not. I capture my thoughts with a voice recorder to be as honest and vulnerable as I can in explaining the story. If you happen to take a look at my blog, I would love your feedback. Thanks so much!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Kelly! I agree that sharing your experience with challenging situations can be difficult, but I think that being honest and open with those raw emotions is important.

      We’re actually working on a post to help writers connect with one another and find writing partners — keep an eye out for it!

  • I appreciate this post. I’m often looking for a point that the rest of the world might be interested in, even though I’m largely telling my own stories. For the longest time, I resisted that–except for travel stories–and I wrote that blog more for my family than anyone else. As an introvert, it’s so hard to put myself out there…but as a not-yet-published author, I can see the value of it.

    Thank you for the article. It’s encouraging!

  • I thought the comments were all so enlightening, but everyone has a comment about a topic that touches them in someway. I lived most of my adult life overseas and when I returned to live among my family there were things that I learned that were so upsetting to me about a very close family member. Things that had always been there but I only thought of her as I was taught to view your family members; as someone who knew what was right for you. My siblings knew the self-obsessed life that she live with them. I could not imagine anything other than a loving soul. Boy! Was I wrong and had to learn the painful, wounding truth about her.

    I think a story can be told using the first person without being narcissistic. Choosing the precise words will make it believable.

  • Marcia says:

    I’m taking a humorous approach to sharing my personal story…ala Erma Bombeck type slice-of-life snippets. Still, it does give one pause to think “who will want to read about my opinions/observations/perspectives/experiences, even if they do have a funny slant?” In the end, I write what I know, and what I know best is me. I can only hope people find humor in life the same way I do and relate to it at that level. Blog on, everyone!!

  • faith says:

    I am also a newbie blogger. But I keep a diary since year 2000. I wonder how would I shift from writing on my diary to blogging my experiences without being a narcissistic. By the way, these experiences I wrote constantly are depressions, anxieties, and worries I have encountered. I was pessimistic. I don’t want to brag all these negativities, but my reason for starting this kind of blog was to let other hopeless people realize that they are not alone just like I was thinking way before, so they would be brave instead of getting too desperate.

    Anyway, this is a great and inspiring article! Thank you!

  • Travis Love says:

    After hours of searching for “personal story” blogs and coming up just plain empty, I am really happy to have come across your blog. It seems to be full of information that will help me improve my writing style. I definitely don’t want to come across as a narcissistic individual when sharing my life’s journey with a rare disease, my hopes for my blog is spread hope. Thanks for creating this website!

  • Kimmoy says:

    This might seem like a weird question, but is a “personal essayist” a common title? I’ve heard of novelists, authors, bloggers, freelancers, technical writers, journalists, and the list goes on, but is it common to be categorized as an essayist these days? The article TWL published on the 19 websites and magazines that want personal essays also sparked my curiousity.

  • I am a new blogger telling my story through grief, some in poem form and hopefully can help others. I am still on the journey of “Where do I belong?”

    http://mysterioustravelingypsy.blogspot.com

  • Dean Harris says:

    Nice Blog …Thanks for sharing!!!!!

  • Cheryl Gilligan says:

    I have been attempting to write my life story. It becomes painfully overwhelming at times, but I have been encouraged to share my story so I might help others, along with myself. I hope this site will inspire me. I think it would help my children understand me more, but, more importantly, I could space out that’s been burdening me for way too long. Looking forward to any suggestions or comments anyone would care to toss my way.

  • I have made an attempt to write small excerpts of my experiences. This website is basically a collection of all the moments in my life that has evoked certain emotions. Short but extremely significant moments that create long lasting impact in our lives. My website is a collection of all such moments.

  • Breanna says:

    Hello, I am a noob to the blogging world but have always been one who loves to read and write and I’m interested in making 2 types of blogs and need to know what’s the best way and where to get started for each. One blog I’d like to be more personal (Going to tell my life stories,my thoughts,and the struggles I went through) and I hope to be able to connect with others with similar stories and experiences and to be able to help those who feel alone. As for the other it’s going to be a more happy and fun blog. My plan for this blog is to be all the fun,good,happy things that have happened in my life to be posted and talked about, I’d also like to make it a place where I make crafts,post recipes,bake,etc.

  • andreea says:

    I try to write like I talk to the reader. And I’m talking about myself only to give examples of what to do and what not to do.The blog is called My virtual friend (http://prietenulmeuvirtual.ro/) and I did it to not be narcissistic and keep only for me what I learned in psychology and from life.

  • onyekachi charles says:

    I specialize in writing stories of others in my blog. people want to be heard, and they also want their stories to serve as a lesson or inspiration to someone going through that phase in life or someone that is yet to.

  • pandora says:

    they sound great I am just started bloging and writing about myself finding it hard to find followser people that want to read my story not sure if it will be catchy anough
    can I get some direction which way to go
    pandorasdiary.com

  • David Kimani says:

    Am intending to start blogging and am glad that you have shared all i needed to know. Thanks alot.

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