Getting to the Story You Need to Write

On Mondays,
I share snippets
from recent entries
in my Gratitude Journal.

* * *

#1029. A story that won’t let me go until it’s written down.

A college writing assignment,
five days to complete,
I felt sure I’d come up with something.

But nothing came,
my mind almost blank
except for a memory
playing over and over in my head.

Deadline pressing in,
I went to the keyboard
except the memory
that would not get out of the way.

Clock ticking
it was all I had to work with
so I typed
words that came without much thought.

“I could always tell when we were in for a bad siege.
I would get one foot in the door after school
and smell booze rather than dinner cooking…”

Many tissues later,
I sighed and thought.
Who’d ever want to read this stuff?

I hand it in, glad to be rid of it.

A week later,
the professor, after asking my permission,
reads it aloud
to the whole class
hearing my classmates response
the many ways it connected with each of their realities
I begin to understand
the power of story.

* * *

“Faced on the page,
a difficult truth becomes a doorway
writes Cameron.

* * *

I would not for all the money in the world
have chosen that story to share
and would not have done it
except it came and swirled
and drove out all else,
as though asking to be told.

* * *

My classmates had found it moving,
but I,
desensitized by familiarity with it,
had doubts
and wondered
if perhaps I’d overdramatized.

I leaned upon my 4 siblings
witnesses to the events –
asking them to read what I’d written
and tell me the truth,
not whether they liked or disliked it,
but whether I’d gotten the story right.

Three responded in short time.

“That’s exactly how it was.”
“Right on.
“You nailed it.”

The fourth I had to chase down.

There was stumbling and stuttering
and hemming and hawing.

“Did you think it was an accurate portrayal?” I asked.
“Absolutely, but…..”

“But what?”

“You can’t put that in writing.”

And now
this past weekend
this exchange
from over 20 years ago
has been swirling in my head.

It took me a while to realize I needed to pay attention to it,
to write it down,
that it, too, is part of the story,
the not being allowed to talk about it.

Memories that swirl
are often asking to be written.

The story continues at SILENCES LEARNED.

Sources *Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), 143.

Read this week’s High Calling Blogs book club discussion about honesty and vulnerability in writing HERE.

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
This entry was posted in creativity, Gratitude Journal, Multitude Mondays, negative voices, obstacle, procrastination, Right to Write, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Getting to the Story You Need to Write

  1. annie says:

    “memories that swirl, are often asking to be written”

    How exactly and terribly true.

    And I am sorry to hear that that story was part of your childhood experience Marilyn.

    Although mine was a not terribly happy childhood, it was spared major domestic dramas. The minor ones did bother me though, appearing then to be major ones, from my child’s eyes!

    And yes, it is strange to compare notes with siblings. How often, the story is slightly different from a sibling who at the time was slightly older or younger than you.

    May God bless the working out of these memories in yours and your siblings’ minds and lives. Writing and sharing is a balm that soothes the spirit.


  2. Fern says:

    Your story reminds me of the week end you taught me at The Word Guild conference about how to write a personal experience story. As you taught, the memories swirled in my head. It had to be written. I went home after the conference, wrote the whole story in 40 minutes, had it published in 2007, and tied for first place in The Word Guild awards in 2008.

    It’s sad that many of us had to grow up in abusive homes, but God often gives us a ministry of love and understanding for others that we could not have done otherwise. It took me eight years to get a degree in counseling at Tyndale Seminary after finding help for my own traumatic childhood, but close to 100 people have found a listening ear and hope for a more peaceful life.

    You are such a blessing to us, Marilyn. The deeper you share from your heart, the more you will help your readers.


  3. laura says:

    Oh, wow. I hear you, Marilyn. Have walked steps like these. You have my prayers. Storming those gates is difficult, especially when your own troops dont want to come along.

    Thank you for risking being vulnerable.


  4. Esther says:

    “My classmates had found it moving,
    but I,
    desensitized by familiarity with it,
    had doubts
    and wondered
    if perhaps I’d overdramatized.”

    I often wrestle with those same doubts about my own stories – truth be told when our stories are shared it invites others in to open up and connect.

    Powerful words today Marilyn. Thank you for sharing.


  5. deidra says:

    Yes. Absolutely yes. That’s it. So true. I am speechless. (ha!)


  6. Marilyn — The truth of this is made even more true by the poetry in which you’ve told it. You have captured so well the tension with self and others the need to be honest in our writing. Being honest is about so much more than the truth. That’s why I think fiction often speaks to our hearts so well. I really, really liked this post.


  7. Marilyn, Most people don’t know how to express themselves in words but really do appreciate when others put on paper exactly how they feel. Most of us have very similar experiences in life, but just don’t know how to tell the story. I have a lot of the same thoughts as you when I read what you write. They speak to me very clearly. I have never had a problem expressing what I feel, and like you, I don’t want to overdramatize a situation but I also think telling the truth about things can help other people get a grip on reality. Some people just want to ignore the truth and hope that it didn’t really exist instead of dealing with their past hurts and dissappointments. I applaud you for telling the stories you tell. Please don’t ever stop.


  8. Pingback: through my fingers « in silence, humming softly

  9. Pingback: Honesty's Shy Younger Sister

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