Our Stories Keep Us Alive: Why Writers Must Write

three friends walking on lonely beach road
Human beings are made up of stories. Our experiences, our bodies, and our daily actions are one great evolving story punctuated by millions of smaller stories. We grow into our narratives and grow because of them, and writers, who have learned the beauty and responsibility of providing those stories to others, know we must write because our stories are what keep us all alive.

Stories fuel the human spirit and return us to our humanity by expanding our empathy, compassion, education, stimulation, sense of community, and overall maturation and growth, over and over again, each new rotation improving us that much more.

Such a return keeps us alive and makes us more powerful as human beings- and as writers- and more able to share our stories with others. In every way, stories are the coil of human life, a currency of the highest order.

“We don’t just tell stories, stories tell us. They shape our thoughts and memories, and even change how we live our lives,”  Sadie Dingfelder

Yet despite having an awareness that stories are life-giving, a requirement for thriving and growing, that doesn’t make the act of writing easier. In fact, many writers commonly wedge a barrier between our desire to write and our time, circumstances, and perceived or actual abilities, and sometimes the barrier (now having taken on villainously large proportions) grows into something so great, it prevents us from writing altogether.

large rock sitting alone in a field on cloudy day

That’s not to say that some people legitimately cannot find the time or motivation within themselves to write. Overactive daily lives, extreme emotional circumstances, authentically make it difficult or even impossible to write sometimes: living in the midst of a storm doesn’t allow much room for reflection- a necessity for the writer. Writers there may try to touch their stories in journals, notes, or even short works, gathering seeds for when they can be later planted, or they may lie fallow, letting their stories well up until they can be told.

Fear Is a Powerful Motivator

But most writers who don’t write, or stop writing, block themselves from telling their stories out of fear. They are afraid they are not good, afraid their efforts will mirror back lack of talent, afraid they will never amount to much or publish to acclaim. They are afraid if they write, it will be hard. They are afraid that they don’t know enough, or perhaps know too much, and are afraid of the power in all they have bottled up inside. They are afraid they don’t know how to make the words come or what to do with them once they do.

Fear has felled some of the most brilliant creative minds, in a loss to everyone.

In truth these fears are fair and reasonable: it is a burden to wrestle our ideas into stories, the act of it requiring strength and fortitude. Emotionally we’re required to confront our memories, abilities, and voices, intellectually we’re required to craft them to be meaningful, intelligent, artful or funny to others, and spiritually we’re required to sustain the daily work of hazarding the self, managing dark feelings when the ideas don’t come, and coping with not having the perfect tools at hand to make the stories behave.

“Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.”— Olin Miller, aphorist

When people talk about writing being hard, they are not exaggerating. Continually having to auto-generate one’s stamina in order to achieve the loftier goal of generating stories can at times feel Sisyphusian and at other times, insurmountable.

Even harder than writing, however, is not writing.

Not writing makes a person’s shoulders lower. It drains the spirit. The ideas, not released or shared, tangle into a mean ball in the mind.

Yet because inaction is easier than action, it can culminate in people saying, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” or “I have a great story; I’m just waiting for the right time.” And letting the sentiment trail off because they know they will not allow themselves to save their own lives- or others- for lack of knowing how to move past the doubt and uncertainty.

Mechanisms that Help Writers Tell Their Stories


Fortunately, there are mechanisms that reduce or mitigate the hardness of writing and even help it become an alleviation, a release. Leaning on what works for others, having a scaffolding of organizational tools, and getting support make it so the work comes, and comes more easily- and even with pleasure.

Pragmatism: The elite few who plunge ahead day in and out with their writing, regardless of their vulnerabilities or feelings of ineptitude can teach us a thing or two about pragmatism’s effect on the artist. We can take the cue from their 9-5 Joe-job outlook on writing, their getting into the chair regardless of how they feel or what happens with the work while they are there.

phone receiver danglingCommunity: We can also recognize our role in a broader community, psychically placing ourselves in a body of peers. One pleasant thought is that writers are everywhere. Chatting with fellow writers on social media or in a writers’ group reminds us of the value in the work we do. That staying the course is necessary and important.

Putting an infrastructure around the writing process: The lawlessness of writing stories can be daunting, but organizing a schedule and the project itself lets the art happen inside a controlled framework. Plans, outlines, charts, schedules, and softwares serve as an external scaffolding that hold up the interior creative work as do deadlines, accountability, and following an educational program. Such things are created to make sure writers keep writing, to benefit humanity at large.

We must write to make the life we have better and more enriched for ourselves and for others. Where there are ideas that challenge and change, there is growth. In the end, as Joan Didion said, we must “tell ourselves stories in order to live.”


When you are ready to tell your story, try our Write Your Novel in 4 Months program for FREE. In your first week, you will receive everything you need to plan out your book-writing strategy before deciding whether to carry on and write your book with us or enjoy the resources you received and write on your own.

Or contact us for a free consultation to discuss your writing and how we can support you ~

 

1 Comment

  • Reply Marianne Scott March 29, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    Jenna, this article meets me at my most vulnerable place. Writers are compelled to story tell. In fact, they have numerous stories to tell. It’s what we love to do. But, you are correct in saying that our avocation is filled with self-doubt, not so much because we fear failure; but because of the power of our words. What if we succeed and so captivate our readers that they want another story as good or better than the one we one we just told? Have we made it possible for them to transcend into the world created out of our imagination? Have we convinced them that the story is true? Even in fiction, there must be truth. At least, that is what the Stephen King says and believes. Every story is a combination of characters and plot. Within that context a writer must invent a tale that is both entertaining and believable. To achieve that is a sort of magic. But it is exhausting especially in times of great stress. You are correct again in saying that writing for us (writers) is a necessity. And, when circumstances within our lives make that difficult, we are tortured with longing and haunted with loss.
    Thank you for being there as my mentor and coach. With your help, my WIP will find it’s voice in the world no matter how long it takes to finish – and we will finish and it will be amazing.
    Thank you.

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