Why write? And who is going to read my words anyway?
Let’s start with that first question: Why write? In my case, putting pen to paper in my journals helps me to hear myself, to record my thought processes without any filter, and to begin problem-solving when I’m feeling stuck. I wrote in a small journal while I was walking the Camino de Santiago, and those observations helped me to notice and transform my inner dialogue. My early journal entries were all about what pissed me off, who had slighted me, and how I was going to repay the insults in kind. After a few days I realized how much that negative focus was affecting my day-to-day experience. I began to look for what I appreciated, to notice beauty, and observe kindness, and I recorded those observations in my notebook. Although I did my best to stash my pilgrimage journal into a box at the end of my journey, I had some insistent stories that kept surfacing. After several months of indecision, I finally took the leap and began to vision a book.
In order to keep moving forward, I needed to have a Big Why. My pilgrimage transformation felt so profound, I believed that others could learn and heal from my experience, without having to do a long walk. I ultimately landed on my Big Why after many drafts of my chapters: I want people who are suffering from childhood wounds to know that they are not alone. I also want parents of young children to know that healing and transformation can happen in one generation.
How can you find your Big Why? Begin with your basic story premise –for example, “I want to write about my favorite walks” – and then follow your writing. I’ve discovered that writing has a mind of its own. The moment I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I have to be prepared for the unexpected. The more words you generate, the more you will you connect with that Big Why that’s underneath the surface. Pay attention and stay present with your writing process. Listen deeply, and your why wlll become more clear.
As I continued to write, I learned more about my ideal audience. My writing coach prompted me to spend some time imagining one ideal reader: “someone who will listen deeply to your words and hear your message”. This person could be someone who was no longer alive, like a favorite aunt, a grandfather, or a family friend. An ideal reader could even be a character from a book or a movie. My coach then directed me to flesh out that person, give her a name, family, friends, a life. At the time I started writing my book, I imagined one woman I knew personally, who became my ideal reader. I envisioned how she would be supported by my words, and I spent time getting to know her at deeper levels. In many ways, she’s an earlier version of me, so when I lost track of my real-life ideal reader, I could look back and remember me at different times in my life and what I would have needed to hear.
What I’ve learned through my ideal reader is that the more I can write to that person, the more my words will connect with others as well. It seems counter-intuitive – many people start out wanting to “connect with everyone”. That approach tends to lack focus. Knowing my ideal reader then allowed me to choose particular stories to share, with my purpose in mind. Yes, I wrote about difficult childhood memories, with my purpose in mind (healing and transformation). Sharing my real stories is likely to help people reflect on their own lives. Our stories have the potential to resonate with our ideal audience and have the power to influence others. All you need is one person who will hear your message.
Are you called to write? Do you have stories to share? I offer support to emerging writers through one-on-one coaching programs, as well as offering writing retreats and workshops. Please contact me at Maccagno.firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free discovery session, or check out my website at www.mariemaccagno.com