The power of writing your story down

How you can untangle the strands of your life through writing - and discover hidden fragments along the way.

The power of writing your story down
What is your story? Who are you? I mean who really are you? I know that’s quite a deep and philosophical question, but it’s also a pretty important one. Some might say we are the product of our experiences and thoughts. Of all the things that happen to us, in our childhood and into adolescence… young adulthood… mid-adulthood…. late-adulthood… That’s an awful lot of “stuff” that’s happened, isn’t it? Whether you’re a twenty-something or a seventy-something reading this, a lot of stuff has happened in your life. Often lots more than we realise… We go through our lives experiencing life richly, with big events and small events coming along and shaping us, consciously and subconsciously. I was struck by an interview with Pamela Anderson I was reading recently in The Sunday Times Magazine. Well-known for her modelling (Playboy) and acting (Baywatch) work, she started writing her memoir at the idea of her two sons. During the interview she shared the following:

“I was cracking open all this stuff I’ve pushed down. And it was great for me to do it because it showed even me - ‘Oh - that’s why I am who I am.’”

That’s why I am who I am. This week I watched Pamela, a love story, the Netflix documentary produced and released in conjunction with her memoir. There were so many pieces of her story that were heart-wrenching, and parts of her experience which - up until now - the world has overlooked. Perhaps even, by her own admission given her words above, parts of her experience that she had overlooked. Of course, Pamela Anderson is in the unique position of being known by millions of people around the world. But strip if we strip the celebrity, the fame away, it’s these words which you, I, or anyone can relate to… And it was great for me to do it because it showed even me - ‘Oh - that’s why I am who I am.’” I’ve maintained a fairly consistent journalling practice several years now. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve fallen out of the practice, letting the days slide by without putting pen to paper and letting the words flow out, and there are a couple of things I’ve noticed: 1. There are always things to write about. I’ve experimented with different forms of journalling, but these days I mostly free-write on the page and let it all out. 2. The experience of life is so rich each and every day, that there are things that happen, words that are spoken, experiences that we experience… that shape us and can often pass us by. Whether it’s a major incident that happened in our youth, a difficult season of our life we have navigated, an accumulation of lots of little things - or a combination of these factors - our lives are rich in experience, much richer than we realise. The power of writing our stories down is we get to peer in and observe the pieces, untangle the interconnected ball of stuff, and examine the strands that emerge from doing so. Oftentimes, we will uncover fragments we might not have realised were there in the first place. As is common with celebrity memoirs, Pamela Anderson’s publishers tried to team her up with a ghostwriter. “Darling, you’re going to need some help,” her literary agent told her. She was adamant and insisted that she need to write down her story in her words. She rigorously contested suggestions made on the lines she wrote down, whether punctuation or words, here and there.

“It had to be exactly my voice. If they tried to put even one word in there, change one punctuation mark, I was explosive, my head started spinning. Because I was opening… it wasn’t just a can of worms, it was, like, this rage I had in me from a little kid.” - Pamela Anderson (on writing her memoir)

It is through the process of writing down our stories, through memoir or narrative fiction or whichever your preferred writing style, that can heal and transform us in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without the unique power of the written word.
Jas Hothi is a writer, coach & author of The Indie Author. READ HIS BLOG or sign up for his newsletter to receive a free copy of his book HERE.