5 Compelling Reasons You Need to (Finally) Write Your Story

5 Compelling Reasons You Need to (Finally) Write Your Story

As writers — whether aspiring or published — we often face the bitter criticism of our own minds before setting a single word to page or screen.

We question the “worth” of our story, comparing it to every other story we’ve encountered. We minimize the plot, the message or the idea behind the narrative until it sounds too silly to warrant our attention.

Whenever your inner monologue starts to play the villain, consider these five truths.

1. Everything sounds silly at its core

If you boil a pot of water long enough, the water disappears. The same thing happens when you take a story and boil it down to its essence.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy? It’s about two people walking to a volcano to get rid of some jewelry. As good as the story is, it’s hard to describe in both a succinct and appealing way.

The more you analyze any story and simplify its contents, the sillier and less original it’s going to sound.

You should tell the story anyway. Because that overarching plot or message is not your story.

2. Your story will be more than its message

A friend recently approached me for help. He summarized the essence of a story he wants to tell, and he asked me, “Is that enough for a story to lean on?”

I told him, “If you write a full story, then anything’s enough.”

There’s a reason I walk up to people and insist they read Harry Potter instead of saying, “Discrimination is bad and love is good.” There’s a reason J. K. Rowling wrote seven books in that series instead of sending out a single tweet.

Stories are more than the ideas they communicate.

As stated by Dr. Robert Ford in the television series Westworld, stories impact audiences not because of simplicities, but because of “subtleties — the details.” He says stories matter when audiences “discover something they imagined no one had ever noticed before. Something they fall in love with.”

We tell stories because they communicate ideas better than any other format.

And the details of a story interest readers more than its messages.

3. At least one person desperately wants your story

Your story will be a reflection of your unique mind. Your story will include details and descriptions not found anywhere.

And someone is searching for it right now.

Someone is out there, seeking the specific comfort or entertainment you can provide. If this story would have been good for you, it will be good for someone else.

Never believe you’re “the only one.” I remember believing I was “the only one” combatting a crippling phobia of lizards. I remember how often I googled “lizard phobia,” searching for others.

Then, after overcoming my phobia through therapy, I documented the experience on my blog. Since telling that story, I’ve received messages from many others in similar situations, living with the same phobia.

And now, my story is on the first page of Google search results, ready to assure anyone feeling alone or misunderstood.

4. Every time you write, you improve

We all want to improve our writing. We journal, we travel, we try essential oils. We attend classes and join writing groups and read books and blogs on the craft.

But the best way to improve is to write.

Every time you try to tell a story, you learn more about storytelling. You learn what works, what doesn’t work and what only works under what certain circumstances. You learn to push through the difficulty of pacing, of structure, of establishing a voice. You learn to round out complex characters.

Tell your story, because right now, you’re the best writer you’ve ever been.

Tell your story, so the next time you want to tell a story, you’ll be better at it!

5. This isn’t your final word.

I sometimes worry I’ll leave something out of my story. I worry I’ll miscommunicate, or I’ll speak too hastily, or I’ll change my mind on a subject in the future.

I’m a completionist at heart, a perfectionist, and many writers share these motivations.

Fortunately, nothing you say has to be the final word. You can tell another story. You can adjust your viewpoint and incorporate it into a new project.

Your story does not have to say everything you want to say.

As long as you keep writing, your last story won’t be your last.

So keep writing — and tell the stories in your head!

Too many storytellers stop before they start. Too many valuable tales sit bubbling inside writers’ minds until they boil away. But you have something important to say, and if you keep these five truths in mind, you’ll overcome the voices attempting to silence you.

Tell your story — you’re the only one who can. You can start by sharing your experiences in the comments!

Filed Under: Craft

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17 comments

  • Tina says:

    Perfect post for me. I’m starting a blog on June 1st about my life as an abused wife. I plan to write a book too. I want to help others suffering from abuse.

    • Tina,

      So many people will benefit from hearing from you. You know your topic, you know your audience, and you know your starting point. You have a plan, and you can be certain that your story is worth telling.

      All that’s left is to write, to heal, and to help. I wish you all the luck in the world.

      —JEL

  • There is another reason: simple self-expression. Through my work as an editor, I have come to believe that the desire to write is itself reason enough to do so.

    Writing is a time-honored spiritual exercise that puts us in touch with who we are at the depths of our being. If there is a story within you, then you will benefit by putting it onto a page, whether anyone else ever reads it or not.

    Self-expression can even be a perfectly sufficient reason for choosing to self-publish. The process of turning a manuscript into a book can be a journey of self-discovery that leads to places the mere writing could not go. Even if no one ever buys the book, it is not a failure. It has succeeded in expressing something about who the author is.

    Some of the projects I have worked on were not ever going to become bestsellers, and I have nonetheless felt deeply privileged to help each author make his or her work the best it could be.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com

  • Robin Resin says:

    This is the perfect time for me to have your message -today. My book (or is it a play?) has been waiting to be written for over 20 years. I’ve even sent an outline to an agent who said it was too much like so many other “self-help” books. My experience, though, has been that any time that I’ve told a group of women about it, all I have heard is “You have GOT TO write that book!” So I guess today is the day to start…
    Thanks!
    Robin

  • Robin Resin says:

    MAY 30, 2017 AT 11:48 AM
    This is the perfect time for me to have your message -today. My book (or is it a play?) has been waiting to be written for over 20 years. I’ve even sent an outline to an agent who said it was too much like so many other “self-help” books. My experience, though, has been that any time that I’ve told a group of women about it, all I have heard is “You have GOT TO write that book!” So I guess today is the day to start…
    Thanks!
    Robin

  • JOHN T SHEA says:

    AMEN! We need this sort of uncommon sense to counter the counsels of perfection we get from so many other sources.

    Reading points 1 and 2 I am reminded of how many necessitarians there are out there who say a story should contain nothing that is not necessary, not considering how that rule could indeed reduce LOTR to a sentence and the Harry Potter series to a slogan.

    A novel is NOT a technical instruction manual.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! Every word should contribute, and every word should matter, but without creative wandering and embellishment, stories crumble into nothing.

      A novel is meant to surround the reader—the trappings matter as much as the central substance!

  • Sandra says:

    This is so very timely. Your words are a soft whisper of encouragement.

    I have several short stories saved digitally – and mentally. Vignettes of my early years growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. As I read your post, I began to picture how to combine these stories into an actual novel and/or memoir.

    Thanks so much – I follow The Write Life and this is one of your best!

  • kurt p dreas says:

    I recommend reading the short stories of Jean Shepard. He was a writer at the Village Voice, Playboy magazine, and the creator of the movie: “A Christmas Story”. (a compilation of several of his stories). One of his books is titled: “In God we trust, all others pay cash”. His writings seem to all be centered in his experiences growing up. — which are extremely funny. Sadly, he passed on several years ago. But his memories and style of writing remain entertaining, educational – in an odd way, and funny beyond words. Many of his stories, characters, and situations remain with me after several years. He also shows why we all have memories and things we saw in our past, that we should share with all our readers. If nothing else, he will open up your well of memories – to all our benefit. If you need a mental life and a humor transfusion, read his works.

  • Shivam Verma says:

    I have been a fiction writer for over five years. It takes a lot of time and hell lot of inspiration to pen down your thoughts in to paper. I know the hurdle and have faced them in past. Your post is perfect for first time writers and great motivation to anyone writing their heart. I totally agree with you , to become a better writer is by writing more and more. Thanks for the Post.

  • Angie says:

    Thank you for this post!
    I’m not a writer… yet.
    #1 & 2 are helpful, but
    #3 struck a chord for me and could be the nudge that spurs me to action 🙂

  • Emma says:

    On the note of not being alone…I suppose you’re also going to tell me I’m not the only writer who’s written since second grade and whose inner critic made her destroy her stories rather than put them off for years? My trouble isn’t with beginning, it’s finishing I can’t seem to do. But every article I’ve ever read on gaining confidence as a writer caters to those whose inner critic shackled the pen entirely. At this point it seems pretty clear to me that I’m the odd one out.

    • Lisa says:

      I have started many stories and poems. Outlined many blog posts. Notebooks full of words and emotion. Messages I know will help someone if only me. And yet I struggle with the Big Finish, as well. I guess it will boil down to “Just Do It” one day. Hopefully, one day soon, because deep down I know that I (and you) can touch others with our words.

      • I understand completely, Lisa. When I face that same hesitation to “be done” with a project, I remind myself of the saying: “Striving for perfection is great, until it keeps you from doing something good.”

        I find that when I accept that my work will NEVER be “perfect,” I feel more free to let it be considered complete when it has reached the “good” point.

        Besides, if you don’t call an editor until it’s already perfect, what work is there for the poor editor to do? 😉

        May you finish many “good” projects!

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources
        epiclesisconsulting.com

        • JOHN T SHEA says:

          Amen! It’s an old saying that the good is the enemy of the perfect. Yet the reverse is more often true and the perfect can be the enemy of anything at all.

  • Cindy Hamilton says:

    Thank you! I just finished my story–been writing it for a year and a half.. Now–the courage to edit this first draft to the perfect story. There’s so much advice out there and I’m fighting the “Am I really a writer or a wannabe writer?” Or “Who do I think I am?”

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