Write To Know
Have you ever had the experience of a difficult event that just keeps replaying itself in a seemingly endless loop in your head, like a relentless hamster in a wheel? Perhaps it was a fight with a friend, or your spouse, a work drama, or maybe some really embarrassing incident? Then, no matter what you do, what you tell yourself, the event just keeps playing over and over in your mind.
I believe that this happens because we are trying to create a narrative, an interpretation, of the story that we can live with. It may never be a story we are comfortable with, thinking of it may always make us twitchy, we just need it to be a story we can accept; a story that fits into the overall narrative that we have written for our life. When this happens to me I write the story down, I write to know.
The diarist Anais Nin said that she wrote so she would know what she thought. This is the gift of story, especially those we write down. We take a step back from the experience and see it with a fresh eye. The rapid jumble of our thoughts is smoothed out a bit in the time it takes to put our experience, thoughts, and feelings on paper.
Whether we consider ourselves writers or not there is a clarity that comes from writing down our stories. Whether we consider ourselves writers or not there is a spaciousness that emerges from taking the time to make a written record of events in our life that feel, in ways small or large, significant.
I believe that Nin was saying that how we write our stories reveals underlying truths that we might otherwise miss. What do we say when we tell the story? What do we say when we write it? Is the story different when we feel that no one will see what we have written?
I've kept journals off and on since early adolescence. When I look those writings I can trace the evolution of my life. I can see the months spent struggling with various fears and anxieties as well as how easily I dismissed some innate strengths. I can see how obsessed I was with what others opinions of me and I can see the slow progress towards being less concerned with what others might think.
Those writings are the map of my life. Now, as I focus on the critical place of story in all our lives, I see each individual story as part of a large tapestry. Each person's threads woven into the overarching tapestry that tells the story of our time. The story of each person or family becoming part of the larger narrative that illuminates the Roaring 20's, the Great Depression, World War II, or the 1960's.
When we write our story we discover deeper levels of meaning in our stories. When we write our stories we discover things about ourselves we may have missed or undervalued. When we write our stories we come to know.
So the next time you are struggling with your "mental hamster" try writing your story down. Write it out and see where that takes you.
Write to discover, write to know.