Writing the stories of your life? Then, you know this writer’s fog well:
“Am I saying this right? How do I make these words feel like the way I feel?”
Overcome this fog by looking past the end result and simply write your heart. Writing your heart is writing unfiltered, without reserve, and it’s like turning on the defrost for a foggy windshield. You allow your thoughts to pour out of you—FOR YOU FIRST, not for the end reader. Then, mine what you wrote for the words and sentences that give you an emotional charge.
Soon enough, you’ll have just the right words to express the story of your life. Still, easier said than done if you’re writing your personal stories feels big. I’ve found many of my personal stories to write when I’m not writing the story of my life… and below are 11 examples!
Journaling is the overarching approach to the 11 examples below. It’s an excellent tool for accessing and expressing the story of your life (one, tiny story at a time).
When you journal, you remove your “writing” hat. You know, the one with big expectations? You simply free write on any ol’ tiny story that’s on your mind in the moment without an agenda.
I’ll help you get started…
The podcast episode/article below is about using journaling to write your heart:
Here’s a roundup. We’ll look into each approach below.
Writing in a “diary” is the fastest way to access your own stories that teach life lessons.
If you’re curiously detailed, like me, you might like this next: Diary vs. Journal: What’s The Difference? (Answer + Examples)
I started writing my thoughts and life stories as a teenager—free writing in various notebooks, diaries, and journals was a safe space to let emotions roar onto private pages. The outlet was wonderful, though, I missed so much opportunity!
What I didn’t know, back then, is how to develop these diary entries into perspective (lessons learned), and I definitely didn’t have foresight to save these for my life story collection.
Diary-Style Journaling is like telling a story to a friend, knowing you’re safe to say whatever’s on your heart. Write the facts (what happened?), but don’t stop there. Write about your emotional connection to the story.
How did you feel when the story happened? How do you feel about the story now? What did you learn about
Try documenting your everyday or a story that’s on your heart through daily diary entries. Any ol’ notebook will do. Try this framework:
Wake up and write while your brain isn’t fully awake yet. They say you have the most access to the subconscious part of your brain first thing in the morning.
Ask “why” as an extension to any personal story you’ve already written.
Keep asking “why?” until you get to the root answer.
Susan Ferraro taught me to journal deeper than ever by simply investigating what I was writing. The insights from these questions are gold for connecting the dots within your life story! For me, these questions often then spark ANOTHER story I hadn’t thought about in forever. Better than that, my self-awareness and clarity around who I want to become became so clear.
Important note: Use this only for stories you’ve healed from or weren’t painful to begin with. If you’re experiencing a painful, unresolved story, asking why can get yourself caught in the weeds. Asking forward-thinking what and how centric questions are better.
Asking “why?” has allowed me to look at my stories with so much self-love, meaningfulness, and clarity on my identity. This insight—this awareness—allows me to better live BEING who I want to become. I can see my own self-sabotage so easily now, which means I can change my course easily.
Have you ever written your personal stories from this point of view? Wow, the stories become hearty, raw, and down-to-earth in the best way. I think when we try to write our stories (assuming someone will read them eventually), we have a tendency to perform a bit. Writing after the “why?” approach allows you to write with your guard down. Humanizing your life stories becomes easier.
Take the time to investigate your beliefs + thoughts from the pieces of your heart you’ve already written.
No matter what you believe in: Guides, the universe, God, whatever… what was so profound to me was to sometimes not WRITE + THINK… but to listen instead.
Maybe it’s our own mind. Maybe it’s actually an outside source. Either way, sometimes if I just listen, revelations and big ideas come up—things I get to catch because I was open to hearing them.
Always, whatever comes up aligns beautifully with my heart.
You might find this helpful: Divine Breadcrumbs from Nikki Elledge Brown
So, less writing, more listening (and writing what you hear). Try it.
This one came from listening to an audiobook by Gabrielle Bernstein.
With #4, listen first, then write, you may just be LIVING your life rather than actually sitting down to write. You could be listening while drinking coffee, on a walk, anything!
Here, in #5 ask a specific question and then write the answer. You’ll intentionally sit down to write… but you’ll first call out to your guide (whatever that looks like to you). I thought this was so weird at first… now I know how profound this can be.
Before you write, say something like (this came from Gabby’s book):
“Dear guides of the highest truth and compassion, I welcome you to write through me now.”
Again, not an expert, but this article from Gabby might help.
If you’ve never done anything like this before, it probably feels weird AF. I get it. When I tried this (after I wrote “this feels ridiculous” and other doodles to get out of my own head), I felt relief. The pressure to find and provide answers all by myself was gone. The words flowed. Some didn’t make sense. Most did.
Whatever question you have about a specific life story (or anything, really!), ask it and listen for the answer. Easy examples: “Why did this story feel so hard for me? Why do I feel so much love when I think about this story?”
Future pace journaling is an all-time favorite of mine. I’ve been doing this since 2016 and it sets me on fire for the day!
Write as if you’re in the future and all your dreams came true. They say it helps your brain to manifest the things you want, because you tap into the energy vibration as if it’s already happened.
Date your page for one year from now, five years, ten, etc. Write your heart out. Consider the “why” from #3 as an interesting add-on.
I unexpectedly found much healing, closure and peace through writing a welcome letter to the new homeowners of our Michigan house. I wanted to tell them about all the magic of the home & the area we loved dearly.
I didn’t expect how I’d feel on the other side of that letter, which is published here.
A few times, I’ve written to a dear friend who passed away shortly after high school.
Write to anyone or anything—someone you love, to a story or season in your life, to your future or past self, to a strained relationship (even if you have no intention to send the letter).
Through my story prompts in Dangerously Good Storytellers, I’ve found it absolutely cathartic to start writing my life stories from categorizing my life and jumping into an area that’s making me FEEL something right now.
Think of the categories within your own life: Childhood, young adulthood, pre-parter, after meeting your partner, pre-kids, etc.
You’re combining (#1) documenting facts & details + how you felt about the experience type of writing with (#3) the why type of journaling, AND you’re visiting multiple areas of your life (rather than thinking of stories at random or writing your life stories in chronological order).
This approach has helped me unearth and honor my own stories, because the root of this method is in meaningfulness. The new level of awareness for my tiny stories has helped me feel like I’m fully awake for my life. I’m no longer at risk for missing the stories in my life even when I’m focused on future plans, doing the work and getting distracted by the noise.
I’ve done this with my kids. Author Hannah Brencher has talked in her books about doing this with one of her friends and another with her husband, which inspired me!
Journaling with someone else is a way to have an ongoing, highly connected conversation. Plus, you’ll likely document your lives as you share about your lives.
Prompts are like little surprises. We only see what we focus on, so breaking the script on our go-to topics to write about can be awakening.
Where to find journaling prompts? I’ve got you covered…
→ Pinterest has a ton. I’ve saved some here.
→ Nicole Annette of Journal Junky has THE BEST journaling prompts. I highly recommend following her on IG. She also recently started The Journal Coaching Podcast—SO GOOD. She talks about journaling for self-awareness, healing, abundance, contentment and about a dozen other benefits.
→ I also purchased Let It Out by Katie Dalebout, which is like a recipe book, but for journaling. It’s not exactly questions and prompts, but rather different styles and journaling activities.
→ I’m also really excited right now about Promptly Journals’ app, which is more for journaling about your family stories. You’ll hear more about that in next week’s episode with Promptly Journal’s founder, Jayne Swallow, and hint: she came with a gift for our listeners.
Start bookmarking prompts so you don’t have to go searching for them when you need one.
You know when you *really* feel a story, or a line in a movie / TV show, or an excerpt in a book you’re reading? For some reason, it just speaks to you? Then… you continue on with life, never really pausing to think about it?
Next time, USE these as writing prompt opportunities.
Use them as a jumping off point. You feel heat around them for a reason. Take the time to figure out what that reason is. There might be a story there.
When you’re in the wild experiencing these things for the first or 100th time, pay attention.
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