I wrote a post for my coaching blog this morning, that I will never publish. In my opinion, it’s really honest and could help a lot of people. It’s also…not my story. Or, really, it’s not just my story. It involves someone else and there is no way I can make my point without telling the other person’s story.
I knew this after the second sentence. But I wrote it anyway. Because it was what my heart wanted to write in that moment. I wrote it with all the details that made the experience so important to me and I shared what I learned from it. But it’ll never see the light of day. And that’s okay with me.
Because it’s better to write it as authentically as possible, and decide not to share it, than to write a sanitized version of it and have it move no one, not even me.
I’ve come to believe this after many years of writing whitewashed versions of the truth, even in my journal. Once I realized someone could pick up my journal and read it (‘cause it happened!) I started “editing” my journal entries. That habit spilled over into all my other writing and it took me years to realize it.
Once I started sharing my memoir writing with others in a class, I got the same comments over and over.
“The story’s good, but there’s no emotion in it.”
“How did you feel? We want to know.”
I started to see how I was “cleaning up” events in my life and started to change that, at first only in my journal, but then, increasingly, in my memoir writing.
It’s become a habit now, one that I don’t want to backslide on. So my first draft contains the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then, later versions can be cut to fit my audience—not cut to fit my fear of what other people will think.
And the blog post I wrote this morning? Having written it as honestly as I can, I can go back and rewrite it to keep the truth of what happened and what I learned from it, without including the details that only identify the other person involved. What I wrote this morning will never see the light of day, but hopefully the kernel of truth will remain as I rewrite it (and rewrite it, and rewrite it!)
It’ll take some work, and it won’t happen overnight, but I can do it. I’ve learned that writing authentically is the only way to go.
Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a full-time mom, part-time writer, part-time life coach. Find her at her website, http://www.dianemackinnon.com.