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Breaking Your Silence—How to Get Past Fear

Fear–everyone experiences an uncomfortable tension, a flutter in the stomach, when they think about writing about their lives and revealing themselves. But most of us come to the page with a need–to explore our lives and memories. To understand something. To muse and wonder about life, relationships. What are the stories that haunt you? What do you need to say and what stops you? What memories won’t leave you alone? Write them down. For now, just write a list.

What gets in the way of writing your truth: shame, fear of judgment from family and friends? Sometimes it’s hard to express the truth of what we’ve lived through, what we’ve done to ourselves and others. And what others have done to us. In writing memoir, we have the opportunity to explore the deeper layers of memory and self. We try to make sense of what happened. Writing allow us to explore our minds and dreams, it gives us permission to discover who we are.

How can we break through the voices of doubt? It’s not easy—just “deciding” to push through may not be enough. Our intellect, our thinking mind, understands that we need to write our stories. But the real problem is our vulnerable emotional self–it wants to protect us from hurt or criticism. (Often we are our own worst critic.) The silencing voice, “the inner critic” is a part of everyone. Every famous author will tell you in their presentations how hard it was to write, how their inner critic started shouting or whispering. But they write anyway!

Journaling, morning pages, a poem a day–you don’t have to write a great deal to feel the joy of seeing your words flow onto the page. Then celebrate and reward yourself for your efforts. Bit by bit you will be able to write more. Someone once told me “Writing leads to more writing!” It’s true. Every time you write, you’re breaking your silence and freeing your voice.

Make lists of the significant moments you remember, moments that won’t leave you alone. Lists help to contain overwhelming emotions and allow you to slowly immerse yourself in a few memories at a time. Be sure to balance the light and dark memories.

Another technique: Keep your writing private through the first draft. Share carefully and protect your vulnerable early thoughts and remembrances from outside comments until you have written a lot without worrying about what your family might say. Remember that family and friends might have a different perspective of events. Negative feedback or the fear of it stops us from writing freely and honestly. Protect your creative self! Get your stories down and live with them for awhile before sharing them.

Tips:

  • List the 5 things that you are most afraid to write about.
  • Take each one on your list and freewrite for 3 minutes why you are afraid. What would happen if you wrote your truths?
  • List the secrets you aren’t ready to write about.
  • List what you imagine people will say if you write what you really think and feel.
  • Make a list of the 5 best memories in your life.
  • Each week, choose a story from your lists and write at least 500 words.
  • Keep writing! Find a writing buddy you can send your work to and who can support you. Mutual support and witnessing helps with the process.
  • Take classes and engage with other writers regularly–it’s like watering your garden. Your veggies will grow better with more nurturing.
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3 thoughts on “Breaking Your Silence—How to Get Past Fear

  1. Thank you for your note. Yes, taking action is hard because then we face the parts of our emotional story that perhaps are still waiting to be resolved further. Writing does help that process, even if you end up not using all that material. Best of luck with your memoir! Keep writing!

  2. I haven’t experienced terrible things like physical and sexual abuse. My truths are more emotionally based…my personal feelings not being honored…and more ’shoulds’ than ‘can dos’… due to being the youngest by 8, 12 & 15 years and the only female. I never experienced lack, in fact, was spoiled beyond belief…until at age 16, when I answered the phone and the nurse at the other end of the line gave me the news that my beloved Dad…my knight in shining armor…had died suddenly of a stroke at the young age of 52, while undergoing some tests at the hospital… and everything changed. And truth be told, I’ve shared this story to anyone who would listen…over and over and over again. Is this real a story worth telling?

    1. It sounds to me like this story is very important to you. The first reason to write our story is to get it down on the page, where then we can witness it, we can honor it. You are the reason that you need to write your story. You need to claim it for yourself. Good luck.

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