Personal Writing Tips Series

5 Essential Personal Writing Tips

It’s not just us budding writers who are interested in personal writing. Readers are too. There are thousands of people online right now seeking entertainment, escape and emotional release – and many of them get it by reading personal stories on blogs.

Look at some of the most popular blogs in the world and you’ll find they’re personal blogs. Many personal writing blogs like Dooce have become massive hits because of the personal stories they share. Even bloggers like Leo Babauta (productivity) Darren Rowse (blogging) and Penelope Trunk (careers) who aren’t known for their personal writing per se, have risen to the top of their field because their personal story made them unique and interesting.

We all have a story to tell and many of us have a burning desire to get it out. Writing down what’s happened to us can be therapeutic. It’s great to get things off our chest and share how we feel with other people. It gives us a sense of being part of something bigger, it lessens the loneliness of the human condition.

I wonder how many thousands of personal stories need to be told but are still safely locked away in people’s heads? Like skeletons in the cupboard those stories will rattle round and keep us awake at night until we let them out.

We need to write them down and sometimes we want to share them, but it’s essential to at least write your personal stories, even if you don’t make them public. Otherwise the creative process is hampered by those ghost stories we want to write but haven’t.

Getting Your Personal Writing Noticed

There are thousands of personal blogs out there so how do we make our personal writing and our story stand out amidst all that noise? How do we make our personal story resonate with people, make them want to read more and recommend it to their friends?

5 Essential Personal Writing Tips

1. Get Up Close and Personal

You have to get up close and personal if you want to shine at personal writing. You have to be honest and really share yourself. That’s why what should be easy is so hard.

Most of us hate writing about ourselves. It’s almost as bad as public speaking. But you have to do it because you have a story to tell and it needs to be told.

People love reading personal stories and that’s why blogs have become so popular. Because people want to know about YOU. No one wants to hear it from corporate writers, paid stooges or even slick Pulitzer prize winners every time.

People want to read personal writing and stories by real people, quirky people they can relate to. Check out the comments on my post 35 Ways I Don’t Fit In if you don’t believe me.

To begin with it’s all about exploring what you know, what you want to say and how you’ll say it.

2. Be Brave

Just do it. Give fear the finger and start now. You may not know what you want to write about or how to write it until you start writing. So set yourself a workable routine and stick to it.

Writing every week day for 60 minutes and, if you have a blog, publishing one blog post a week would be a great start.

Accept that to begin with your writing will be rusty. That’s normal. They’re called first drafts. From those rough sentences final drafts will spring.

Professional writers are lucky to have ruthless editors to pare, improve and fine-tune their writing. You probably don’t. Of course you can learn editing skills too but the editing comes later. First you need to write. Personal writing, like all writing isn’t about  being perfect. It’s about getting started and having something to show for it.

3. Ignore the Voices

You know the ones I mean. The negative voices in your head. I’m not even going to mention what they say here because they’re not getting any space, time or recognition. They don’t deserve it.

It’s our duty as human beings and fearless writers to drown those voices out no matter how. Sometimes, singing helps. Or replacing them with positive mantras like “I love telling my story” or “I write daily because I enjoy it.”

Wine sometimes helps but that’s naughty. Have just one glass if you must but be careful. You don’t want to have too much and end up like Earnest Hemmingway.

You’ll need to write something to discover what your story is. Then you’ll have to rewrite it to work out why your story’s important, and rewrite it again to make the story clear to your readers.

4. Keep it Simple

Some people are brilliant storytellers. They can hop around from one event to the next with ease. There are a few tried and tested ways of telling any story – including personal ones: chronological order, flashback, and starting at the end. Don’t worry about that yet if it confuses you or worries you.

Just concentrate on telling a story from the beginning to the end and getting people engaged and feeling like they were really there with you.

5. Start a Blog

Your blog doesn’t have to be made public, but if you do decide to go public with your personal writing, you may want to change names, places or locations to protect the innocent… and stop the guilty from suing you.

Or you could write an anonymous blog.

Private, public or anonymous, blogging offers a great way to organise your writing, get yourself in the habit of regular writing and manage your stories.

Personal Writing Round Up

I hope you’ll get into personal writing because it’s fun and therapeutic too. But you have to be brave and give yourself away. So stop hoarding what you’ve got and share it with the world if you dare.

Let’s aim to make our personal writing as compelling as fiction and evoke feelings people can relate to. Your readers weren’t there but if they understand how you felt, and if they’ve ever felt that way themselves, you become more than just a writer, you become a friend.

That’s what puts the personal into personal writing and makes it universally popular.

Strong personal writing makes readers love reading and makes good writers great.

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In the weeks ahead we’ll cover story-telling, themes and self-discovery for personal writing. I’m looking forward to it and hope you’ll join us.