Self Stories writing workshops

Getting Started

Important Considerations for the Workshop

It is extremely important to note that this workshop, in its current form, was developed and tested over several years. As such, there are very specific reasons why the workshop takes its current form. For example, the literary genres presented range from the most familiar (i.e., the first-person narrative) to the least familiar (i.e., third-person narratives).  As demonstrated in the examples in Week 7, even if people do write about the same experience using a different genre, the story will be very different.  Please do not change the orders of assignments and do not assign topics for people to write about.  People must always have the choice of what to write about.  Changes to the structure and content of the workshop changes its purpose.

Why Writing Can Be Intimidating and Rewarding

People often feel more vulnerable when writing a story than when telling a story. A story that is told aloud lasts only while it is spoken, and it can be told and retold in slightly different ways each time. The storyteller has the advantage of seeing his or her audience, making it possible to respond directly to questions or change the story slightly depending on reactions to it.

The writer, however, creates without knowing how the work will be received. The good writer creates without trying to imagine what other people will think. Rather, they write what comes from within. Many people feel that once they put words on paper, the story cannot be changed, but they can.

Understanding the vulnerability that people feel when putting moments of their life down on paper is an important step in thinking about the life story writing process. Experimenting with different writing forms helps participants find comfortable ways to express themselves by matching a form with an experience. For example, a form such as third-person narrative, where the story is told by someone else’s perspective (“she rather than “I”), can create a distance between the author and the event, enabling the writer to narrate a painful experience. This doesn’t mean that the story is not true just because the writer doesn’t use the word “I”.  The story is as true as it was if told by a narrating “I.” Using the pronouns of “he or she” instead of “I” can give the writer more space and allow him or her to include only the details that an outsider would perceive. This is why each workshop session explores a new genre — to provide writers will more and more tools to express themselves.