As an introvert, writing about ones own life isn’t exactly a light and breezy process. It’s hard enough to introduce ourselves at parties, let alone spill our life story onto the page.
We fear the judgement of others. What if it angers a troll? What if someone I knew from high school reads this? What if I sound petty, pathetic or — god forbid — boring?
Why do it then? Why not save our stories, whisper them to our cats or be buried with them still inside us?
The problem is that our stories contain our epiphanies. Epiphanies aren’t just ‘aha’ moments, realising you… They’re bigger than that. They’re god-sized.
The word comes from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning ‘appearance’ or ‘manifestation,’ and refers to the revelations brought to us by the gods.
Regardless of where our epiphanies come from, they are the moments that connect us with something bigger than ourselves. In those moments, a universal truth is revealed and even though the way they come to us may be unique and individual to us, the wisdom we gain always boils down to a truth many others can relate to.
“It’s the occurrence when the mind, the body, the heart, and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way.”
~ Maya Angelou
Why bother writing about your epiphany, why go through the ache of having your heart re-opened, just to get some words on a page?
In my experience, there isn’t a better way to connect with your reader than through sharing your truth; your revelation, even if it hurts a bit on the way out.
Over the past six years of sharing my writing online, I’ve gone from revealing absolutely nothing about myself to self-publishing a book that begins with my hysterical breakdown on public transport. The reason I did this wasn’t to torture myself (or the reader), but to take part in the tradition of personal revelation through writing.
This tradition has also helped me through my own tough times (and if you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Martha Beck and countless others, you’ll likely have experienced this too.)
I don’t remember the exact moment it hit me, that I had my own epiphany to share, one that could help — maybe — another person like me. More likely, it dawned on me with time and experience in writing and reading, reading and writing.
It still makes me feel a bit sick to think of people reading that introductory chapter, as though they were there with me, watching me blubber into a stranger’s tissue. But at the same time, I think of the possibility of there being one person amongst them that breathes a sigh of relief: I’m not alone in this. If she got out alive, so can I.
If you’re someone who winces at the thought of sharing your personal story, your epiphany, but sense an urge to do so, here are my tips for baring your soul (without baring your bottom):
Write the most extreme version first
Once you’ve pulled off the band aid, everything after that feels easier. Getting the first version of your story onto the page is the moment of catharsis you might need in order to continue.
From there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s out. It doesn’t need to be delivered to your audience in that form, and it might (and probably should) take multiple rounds of editing, but you’ve got the hardest part out. The burden you’ve been carrying is lifted.
Identify the transformation
If a change doesn’t take place in your story (or hasn’t yet) then it’s unlikely that it will give anyone else hope. It might just be a car crash. Which can work for some authors, but I’m guessing you want to provide some value to your reader.
Make sure the before and after moments are clear to you, for there to be any chance in getting through to anyone else.
Write for the former version of you
To distract yourself (at least momentarily) from the pressure of writing for another, write as though you were sending a message back in time to the person you were before the epiphany. What do they need to read, to know that in the end, it all works out for the best? Or what information about themselves or the world do they need to discover?
When you write with yourself in mind, you’ll likely find the crucial moments that would otherwise get washed away as you attempt to please the masses.
Your epiphany is unlikely to come out fully formed on the first try. Like a groundhog-day journal entry, you simply re-write the story over and over. When you do this regularly, your memory finds more details. New and better expressions get formed. It also, miraculously, gets a lot easier to write about.
It’s possible that your epiphany isn’t ready to be shared with the world, because you’re still realising it yourself. I still recommend trying to write about your life anyway, for a myriad reasons, only one being hitting on your epiphany — the one that causes a transformational chain reaction in others who get to read about it.
But in the meantime, be patient. This is your life, not just a story.
Cat Rose is an author, podcaster and coach to creative introverts. To read about Cat’s epiphany, check out The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms. Connect with Cat on Twitter or Instagram. Feel free to share your introvert epiphany on social media and tag Cat or use the hashtag #IntrovertEpiphany