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A response to Shawn White.

Shawn, you are most assuredly not alone.

For me, I believe the therapeutic and cathartic benefits of sharing personal experiences. If I am able to coherently write about my feelings regarding an experience (e.g. dealing with the epic BS of recurrent cancer) then I’m better equipped to cope with those realities.

In addition, there are social benefits to the tribal affiliations discovered by sharing our stories. When we declare to the world “THIS THING!”, and others join our chorus (Yes! THIS!!), we can form a bond of shared experience. Collectively, this validates our mutual understanding and our responses. It supports our decisions, and comforts us. Everyone wins.

I come from a large Midwestern family with a deep oral tradition. (Of course, we’d never refer to it like that. They are simply the family stories, inexhaustible and omnipresent.) These stories anchor us to each other. They help us remember those family members we’ve lost, and how they contributed to our collective identity.

The truth, emotion, and sometimes humor, is what makes the story resonate. In the 1946 book “Confessions of a Story Writer” Paul Gallico wrote:
It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.

So do please breathe sir, as Steinbeck suggested, or bleed, or whatever gets the story out of your head and onto our pages. We will all feel better for the experience.

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