I Never Planned On Being A Confessional Writer

But it makes sense now that I think about it.

Shannon Ashley
Jul 15 · 4 min read
Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

I was a pretty artsy and emo kid long before emo went mainstream. It all started with writing when I was very young. For virtually every English assignment in school, I found a way to write poetry or add some tactile art.

For most of my childhood, writing poetry or lyrics was a way to process my emotions, and by the time I was nearly through high school, my literature and journalism teacher suggested to my parents that I would make a good feature writer one day.

As I got into college, I grew out of my alternative/grunge phase and naturally moved into the world of everything emo/screamo and punk.

My ex-husband was a musician in the St. Louis punk scene and I was deeply moved by the music of Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional, Over The Rhine, Anberlin, The Fray, The Used, and Emery.

Emotional music has always been my kryptonite.

Sadly, I can’t carry a tune to save my life. But my favorite music puts me in a whole other headspace. When I listen to the music I love, I am dying to sonehow inject myself into that kind of art.

The same thing goes for my favorite books. They move me in a way that makes me want to tap into a similar feeling with art of my own creation. Books like Silver Linings Playbook, If You Feel Too Much, or A Room With A View. Even The Twilight Saga.

“We’re all in this together. It’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to say you’re stuck, or that you’re haunted or that you can’t begin to let go. We can all relate to those things. Screw the stigma that says otherwise. Break the silence and break the cycle, for you are more than just your pain. You are not alone. And people need other people.”
Jamie Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For

I find a lot of healing in honesty and vulnerability.

Considering my affinity for emotive music, I suppose it’s only natural that my writing would also bend in an emotional and confessional way. I never consciously thought about it, but I have recognized some sort of kindred spirit with certain polarizing artists, like Lana del Rey.

Back when I finally decided that it was time to seriously pursue a writing career, I was pretty damn desperate to earn a decent living. At first, I had no clue just how personal my writing would become. But that sense of desperation told me to lead with honesty.

See, I’ve never considered myself to be any sort of great writer. Actually, I have thought that my depression and mental illness had negatively impacted my ability to write well far into my adult years.

As a result, I felt I had nothing to give potential readers except my honest feelings, experiences, and challenges. And every time I worried that a story of mine was too silly or simply TMI, I remembered what had moved me about some of my favorite books and stories.

“No, he is not tactful, yet have you ever noticed that there are people who do things which are most indelicate, and yet, at the same time, beautiful?”
E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

Relatability was always the thing that moved me.

I wondered if I could channel my own version of that open vulnerability. On my 5th day of writing online, I wrote up A Different Kind of Abuse with virtually no edits because I was afraid I’d wind up taking the story down if I dissected it too much.

But that story wound up being my first hit, so to speak, and that’s when I knew that honest and vulnerable writing was indeed going to work for me.

Looking back on my full trajectory as a writer so far, I think I was always going to take on a vulnerable, first-person voice. I just didn’t realize that for a very long time. But I think it was always my writing style — to want to go ahead and talk about uncomfortable things.

Of course, I am on the spectrum with Asperger’s and I’m also an INFP (healer idealist), so I think the confessional style is a natural extension of my personality.

How can you find your voice?

If you are looking for their own writer’s tone and frame of reference, I think it helps to look back over your life to the points where you have felt most vibrant and alive. Most like you.

  • What books moved you? What music moved you?
  • What kind of stories do you wish you had read along the way?
  • What messages did you really need to hear?

I believe the answers to those questions can help you figure out your personal style. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Honestly Yours

Here's the landing pad for my new and self-published stories without another home.

Shannon Ashley

Written by

Single mama, fulltime writer, exvangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer. http://www.patreon.com/shannonashley

Honestly Yours

Here's the landing pad for my new and self-published stories without another home.

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