There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing
that their story is one that deserves to be told.
Especially if that person is a woman.
When I host writing workshops, I share some simple guidelines to help participants access their stories. In the early years, one of those guidelines was that there were to be “no disclaimers” before participants shared their work.
That meant that they were not to say: This isn’t very good, I’m not sure there’s anything worth saying in here, This sucks, or some other apologetic nonsense before reading what they’d written.
But even with that guideline clearly in place, I found that these Writer Babes were very sneaky. Well, maybe just a little sneaky; mostly, I suspect, they were just VERY conditioned to apologize, minimize, and generally doubt the worth of their stories.
Because even though they’d been prepped not to engage in disclaimers before they started reading their work, they’d slip IN to the actual work itself. In the poems, short stories, essays, and stream-of-consciousness practice…up would pop the apologies, the doubt, the self-bashing, and the disclaimers. Crafty Babes, they were.
Seeing that this mad skill of theirs would not go away no matter what I said, I wound up dropping the “no disclaimer” guideline because I realized that the only way these women would STOP apologizing, minimizing, and doubting their worth was to hold a mirror up to it.
Maybe B couldn’t hear the worth in her story, but she sure as hell saw the worth in J’s or S’s or G’s. And in time, when hearing herself back away from the worth of her own work over and over again, maybe – just maybe – she’d start to laugh at the nasty ingrained habit that lived to diminish her light, at the same time something in her was aching to shine it.
Over time, she’d start to see herself on the page in between the apologies, and she might get indignant. Pissed off even. And then maybe bolder and gutsy and powerful, and ready.
Ready to tell the stories that only she can. To stop backing away from the insight that only she has – because of the life she’s lived and the experiences she’s been through. To stand up to the people who tried to put a lid on her, or the society that didn’t want to hear about her mess, challenges or doubts. To allow herself to sink into the powerful feeling that comes from saying: this is my experience, and it’s worth sharing and telling and celebrating.
That’s my dream. That women get gusty and ballsy and ready. That they tell their stories without apology. That they claim the space they take up instead of waiting for perfection, or some earthquake in their lives to tell them: This is my life. I get it. I want it and I’m going to live it and tell it.
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