Personal stories - reasons to tell personal stories

5 Great Reasons for Telling Personal Stories

I found out from my own experience of blogging that sharing personal stories can also be good for business. It seems counter-intuitive so I was delighted to hear fellow blogger, and an 0ld mate of mine, Molly Kelash had the same experience.

I’m doubly glad I nagged her to write a blog post because now we can read her pearls of wisdom and she gets more work too. Molly wrote a fantastic guest post for Successful Blogging sharing her experiences on how personal writing can improve business.

There’s a lot of synergy between my two blogs, because the focus on both of them is writing and blogging. But I want to keep the business tips at Successful Blogging so we can dream, have fun and experiment here.

Writing for Business and Pleasure

Writing has always been a pleasure for me.

It started out that way and I want to make sure writing is fun for me forever. I can see the danger of it feeling like work if all my writing is copywriting for clients, and web design or blogging tips for business owners and writers.

But I’m determined that writing never feels like work even if it is my trade. So I’ll always make time for writing which is a hobby or creative outlet rather than a way of making money.

Get In the Hot Spot has always been about fun writing and it’s also helped me earn more both directly and indirectly but that’s really an added bonus, not the main goal.

The Perils of Personal Writing

I started off writing poems and songs at school when the other kids were doing art. But the teacher made me recite the poems or sing the songs and I didn’t like that at all.

I’m not sure what happened but I have a feeling from then on my writing became a secret activity. Something I didn’t share with anyone.

At the age of five I’d already learned the potential downsides of daring to write and sharing your personal feelings.

I guess the disadvantages of personal writing are obvious and there are a few reasons why many of us are reluctant to even try personal writing, let alone put it out in the public arena by actually publishing it on our blogs.

Fear and your over-critical inner critic can make simple writing and storytelling a big deal. Sometimes, even if no one will ever see our personal writing, we have to come face to face with feelings and events that we’ve successfully avoided for years.

Why Bother with Personal Writing?

Here are five great reasons for telling personal stories even if you never plan to publish them, and even if you absolutely do not want to write commercially or make money from your writing.

5 Reasons for Telling Personal Stories

Personal-stories-fun1. For fun

Give yourself permission to write purely for fun. Millions of people find writing fun and you have every right to practice something that you enjoy.

Between commitments to work, family and the daily grind of every day life, many of us tend not to do enough for ourselves. Ladies, does that sound familiar?

If you find writing fun then make time for it and realise how lucky you are to have a  creative outlet which is free, challenging and can be done just about anywhere and in any time frame.

Even if you’re the only person who is ever amused, moved or enlightened by your personal writing that’s fine.

If you enjoy writing just write.

2. To make you seem more human and help people relate to you

I often find socialising at parties or networking events hard. I’m shy. I can go completely blank and find myself unable to think of a single thing to say.

I guess it’s a survival instinct that tells you the less you really share of yourself, the less chance it will come back to haunt you in form of ridicule, being excluded or being the subject of unwanted gossip.

Of course I share with my close friends, and even some people I don’t know well, if there seems to be an immediate bond between us. But face to face communication is hard.

So writing offers a great alternative to talking. It’s a way to share your feelings on paper which you can choose to let people read if you wish. Personal writing can be a way of sharing your emotions without the risk of getting (or seeming) emotional.

But best of all personal writing can give reader the feeling of really knowing someone, even if they’ve never met.

personal-stories-trip3. To enjoy a trip down memory lane

It’s not good to get maudlin and live in the past, but it is fun, and often therapeutic, to look back on both sad and happy memories.

Things that seemed mind-blowing to us at the time can become almost mundane once the years have passed by and you write them down.

And it’s always surprising and telling to discover what you remember and what you want to write about.

Personal writing helps us learn so much about ourselves.

4. To form friendships and relationships faster

People bond over shared experiences, be it an actual experience or an emotional experience. But often finding out that you share a common outlook or experience can take years.

For example, last weekend I found out that a friend I’ve know two years has multiple sclerosis. She hasn’t had an episode of it for 1o years so is in the clear now but she was diagnosed with MS when she was a young adult. It gave her a huge wake up call to travel and explore the world immediately because her health was threatened and she knew she could become blind or paralysed.

Now if only she was a blog writer I’m sure that would be one of the most powerful stories she shared and we could have got to know each other a lot quicker.

Personal stories5. To evoke emotions in your readers and capture their imagination

We’re human beings not robots and we actually need to experience real feelings. Often we’re stuck in our daily routine with not a lot going on.

Those big emotional events like starting school, learning to ride a bike, falling in love, giving birth or winning a prize many only happen once in a lifetime, but it’s wonderful to be able to tap into our own feelings by reading about other peoples’ emotions.

Have you ever chosen and watched a movie just because you wanted to have a good cry? That scene in Gone With the Wind where the little girl Bonny dies in a horse-riding accident is heart-wrenchingly good.

Usually I prefer to watch a comedy and have a laugh, but sometimes crying can be a good way to let off steam too. By sharing our own feelings and evoking them in other people we help each other become more well-rounded humans.

Personal Writing Power

Personal writing can take the reader from not knowing someone at all to really feeling like they’ve been reunited with a long-lost relative.

Personal writing captures people’s imagination in a way that no other type of writing can. It’s real, it really happened and to a real person.

Many of the best stories are true stories that read like fiction and if you can pull that off your readers will be happy, whether they’re reading for business or pleasure.

Why do you like personal writing? What worries you about personal writing most?

Photo credit: Derek Gavey
Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

barbara June 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

It’s funny that I started out writing about my angst over turning 60 and discovered sharing some of my life stories and struggles helped others deal with their own. There’s nothing like the feeling you’ve helped someone else even if in a small way.
The blogs I enjoy most are more story driven. We all love a good story, as you say whether we laugh or cry. If the content is good we’ll read it and if people like it they’ll share it.
Keeps me going!
Thanks for a great post!
b

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Annabel Candy June 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Barbara, your story puts everything else into persepctive. Sometimes we can learn more about ourselves from hearing other people’s stories than we do from living our own! But the bottom line is it’s always good to share. Hard maybe but rewarding:)

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Sarah O'Leary June 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I like to write personal stories because I love writing and I love telling stories to my friends. Since the written medium is so different than speaking (you can’t use gestures, accents and tone of voice to accentuate the story), it’s a good challenge to figure out how to entertain just as well through the written word. I figure all of it is good practice for a more “serious” writing project. Or not. Maybe it’s all just for fun.
I do agree that we all find it easier to learn through narrative and story, then just taking in dry facts.
Great conversation!
~Sarah

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Annabel Candy June 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Hi Sarah, thanks for joining the conversation, all the better with you here:) Good practice and good fun hopefully – what could be a better reason for sharing personal stories than those….

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Hari Kotrotsios June 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Personal writing lets you focus on specific details, much in the same way when you retell your travel adventures to friends.
It’s great to relive all those memories again and I’m rediscovering that the more I write them down, the more creative and inspired I’m getting! And I’m having lots of chuckles along the way.

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Annabel Candy June 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Hi Hari, oh chuckles are always good and it’s true – being creative and getting inspired does lead to more creativity and inspiration:)

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Linda ~ Journey Jottings June 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

With so many friendships being formed over the net, where the opportunity for little personal details to slip into the conversation can’t organically arise – sharing personal experiences (actual and/or emotional) helps to establish and seal connections.

Its the difference between a cold fronted faceless corporate exterior to offering up the warm personal space offered when inviting someone to pop over for a cup of tea – and the chat that ensues.

Stories are our core – Its who we are :)

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Annabel Candy June 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Hi Linda, great sound bite at the end. Might have to quote you on that some time:)

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Melvin - Point Or Two June 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Great blog post!

I can testify to that as my blog is about simple things that I have experienced and sharing it as long as it can be useful and informative to others.

Story telling is a great way to write naturally.

You can be able to write quickly because words are not hard to find. They volunteer themselves to be used.

And because it is story telling, you can really put yourself into it. Emotions can be felt by the readers which in return will appreciate what you’ve writen and give you a positive response.

Cheers!

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Annabel Candy June 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Hi Melvin, thanks for joining us:) That’s true that the more personal I get the more postive the response tends to be.

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Teresa June 8, 2011 at 1:28 am

Yet another post encouraging me to write about The Adventures of a Scaredy Cat! One day I will get around to it haha Until then I will enjoy reading your anecdotes!

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

Hi Teresa, well, I never give up. I’ve noticed some people take several weeks/months of reading my blogs before buying my blogging book or start a blog… or even years in your case!

But don’t worry, when the time is right it will happen and I will never give up on the hope of reading The Adventures of a Scaredy Cat:)

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Junie June 8, 2011 at 1:34 am

Thanks for this. I really enjoyed reading your post. I’ve just started a new blog and was in two minds about putting my experiences in the articles. I have decided to do that because it makes it more personal and people are able to relate to the articles more.

One of the first articles I wrote was ‘Why Can’t I park?’ and because it was my story, I was able to put my personality in it.

I find it easier to write if I’m being myself, which is important. I love your blog and I hope that one day I’ll be able to reach out to as many ladies as posssible.

Thanks again.

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi Junie, lovely to see you here:) Thanks so much. Just the headline makes me want to read it. You are in the right place here to hang out with a motivated, upbeat team of writers and grow our blogs together. Happy to have you on the team!

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Steve Thomas - fungeezer June 8, 2011 at 1:58 am

Hi Annabel! My problem is trying not to share too many stories in my blog. I get a little self centered at times and want to tell everyone about me when they don’t really give a damn. I have to keep telling myself to include “you” and not just “me.”

Like the time, as a kid, I crawled headfirst down a deep hole and then couldn’t get out… . Oh yeah, another time!

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hi Steve,

You know I struggle with it too, that’s why I’m writing about it:) My take is that personal stories are excellent but you have to have some kind of message or takeaway for your reader.

So what did you learn from that experience?!

It’s about finding the story to fit your message.

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Catherine White June 8, 2011 at 4:33 am

Good morning Annabel

Great post, your photos tell a powerful story. I love reading personal stories, nothing pulls me in quicker than a personal reveal. Especially, stories of one’s most embarrassing moments. Yesterday, I was in a giggle fest with someone who was doing just that.

Anyone who makes me laugh wins me for life, seriously, a good belly laugh is my achilles heel.

Enjoy your day A.
Catherine

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Catherine, I agree, we don’t laugh enough:) I need to share some more funny stuff here.

Glad you like the photos. I added them at the end and each of the 3 photos at the bottom really do tell a personal story for me (I took them!) but one that I hope everyone will be able to read too:)

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Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane June 8, 2011 at 4:36 am

Ever since I was a kid I loved reading books and also making up my own stories. I ended up writing romance novels for Harlequin (35 of them).

All during my career I was living in a number of foreign countries and just started writing up “true” stories about my own expat life adventures, which was great fun. I like to write about the light side of life abroad, see the humor in it, rather than dwell on the negatives which get covered by CNN and cousins ad nauseum.

I’m not scared about personal writing because I don’t cover intimate or emotional subjects. Just the fun ones ;)

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hi Miss Footloose, wow, that is an impressive record! I avoid intimate too but emotional can be good – even better if, like you we focus on the positive emotions:)

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Jen Brown June 8, 2011 at 6:59 am

A very timely post for me Annabel. Last night I sat down & wrote a very personal post for me. It is something I am quite embarassed about but one which, I suspect, will also touch a cord with my readers. I haven’t quite decided to post it yet – but I’m closer.

Thank you :)

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Jen Brown June 8, 2011 at 7:50 am

Scratch that. I took a deep breathe & a big leap. Thanks for the push ;)

You can check out my post – Confessions of a Personal Trainer

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:16 am

Hi Jen, yay! Confessions are always popular. Can’t wait to read it… do you eat too much chocolate too? Or sometimes just feel like slobbing on the couch instead of going for a run? I will find out:)

Leonie June 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Hi Annabel, really enjoyed this post. Writing is also my trade and it’s great to be reminded to write just for the pure enjoyment of it. And to make time for that… as it can fall way down on the priority list! It’s nice to feel it doesn’t always need to be for any purpose other than just because! …And yes, it is scary putting personal writing out there… But yes it also opens the opportunity for others to relate and for connections to be made. :)

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi Leonie, great to read you’re in the same boat as me. I hope you manage to make time for fun writing too:)

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Dave June 9, 2011 at 2:17 am

Hi Annabel,

I’ve been noticing in the last few months that the bloggers I enjoy reading the most use a lot of personal storytelling, in a way that comes across as sharing and not self-obsession.

I liked this from the post:

“And it’s always surprising and telling to discover what you remember and what you want to write about.”

That’s one of the gifts of telling personal stories, we get some insight into our own experience and, hopefully, some of that comes across and is valuable for the reader, too.

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi Dave,

I like that idea of sharing and not self-obsession. I’ve been trained to write about other people and things so it is hard for me. So glad we can give ourselves permission to give it ago and a great reminder to me and Steve that personal writing is fine as long as it adds value:)

Great to have you here and thanks for adding to the discussion!

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Penelope J. June 9, 2011 at 6:58 am

Annabel, I prefer story driven blog posts as often their messages stay with me long after I’ve forgotten all the good advice in another post. For me, my personal writing is my friend, lover, confidant, and therapy. When I can’t write – as has happened recently due to work overload or events beyond my control – I tend to get morose, down, negative thinking, and lose my self-confidence. My personal writing is what keeps me going, keeps me alive – and I mean that in every sense.

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Annabel Candy June 9, 2011 at 10:20 am

Hi Penelope, I know that feeling – writing and long walks are essential to my personal wellbeing too. And so true, stories do stay with us longer than endless facts and figures.

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Desolie June 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hi Annabel

Thanks for the inspiration.

When I started blogging (and other forms of social media interaction), I thought I would keep it all ‘business like’.

However, I’ve written a couple of personal stories on my blog (www.desolie.wordpress.com) and for a couple of other sites. And I’ve found that it has helped me understand and build my writing process, because I wanted to express myself in a less business-like way. I’ve used those personal posts to experiment with formats, spacings, and (take a deep breath) breaking the grammar and punctuation rules!!

Thanks for the tips, inspiration and encouragement.

Desolie | sharpens your writing

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Annabel Candy June 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hi Deslolie, that made me laugh. I think that’s why I love writing blog comments so much. It’s the only place I let myself go nuts with the punctuation!! ;)

I think what you’re doing will show the breadth of your writing skills and confidence as well as hopefully increase your skills and confidence. It sounds like fun!

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Seana Smith June 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hello Annabel,

I’ve always found that personal stories are so much more powerful than anything else. In the books I have written on my own then with Benison O’Reilly and now with Cathie Knox we have always used lots and lots of personal stories. They make their points in so much more powerful a way.

And for me personally, I do love a trip down memory lane, and the idea of sharing stories about my life so as to bond with others… and to make them laugh!

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Annabel Candy June 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Hi Seana, aha, that must be one of your secrets to writing best-selling books! Thank you:) Love it. Now I have proof:)

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rob white June 9, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Hi Annabel,
This is precisely one of the challenges I am facing now with my new book. I have no problem putting my philosophy in writing, but when my editor tells me it is time to inject my personal stories into my writing I begin to resist. But I think there is no getting around it. Readers demand to know what qualifies anyone to write a book on the nature of success. Thanks for this blog, you reinforce the trust and connection readers need to have with authors.

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Annabel Candy June 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Hi Rob,

Oooh, more proof – editors want personal stories too:) So exciting to hear about your new book and already at the editing stage. Well done! I hope to read that one too:)

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GutsyWriter June 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

I think the reason I write now is different than before. I really like to share different ways of looking at life and get a sense of being helpful when one person reacts and takes action. Since I’ve written a travel/family memoir about peer pressures, my kids, a defiant teenager, and how a marriage adapts to living on an island with local threats, I think I’ve had to be pretty open and honest, or it would be called a novel. Thanks Annabel.

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Annabel Candy June 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi GutsyWriter, oooh, interesting, but there’s another problem, how do you write about that stuff and maintain people’s anonymity – or don’t you bother? I’m wondering about that too:)

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Brandon Yanofsky June 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Personal wiring is very powerful. Like you, I’ve had so many great relationships arise from my writing. People around the world have been touched and contact me. And even better, people I haven’t spoken to in a while are contacting me after reading my wiring. It’s amazing.

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Annabel Candy June 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hi Brandon, that’s brilliant, I love hearing about other bloggers who’ve been inspired by their readers. Well done.

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Kellie June 11, 2011 at 8:03 am

I’m a journo by trade. I started a mummy blog earlier this year as a way to record the early years of my two girls’ lives while I was on maternity leave. It’s now lead to me resigning from newspapers, starting a business (unexpectedly) and has developed the most incredible relationships with women in the same situation. Must say, I’m having a ball!

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Annabel Candy June 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Hi Kellie, so great to see you here and love your blogging story to date. I have a feeling it’s only going to get better too:)

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Cath June 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

When I was a girl, my parents got into family history. They were excited about finding a missing date, or a new generation, but the real treasures were journals and letters. Unfortunately, as many of my ancestors were poor and illiterate, these were few and far between. The family history is just a chart of names and dates. I think that’s sad… because these were once living, breathing people who laughed, cried, danced, sang, worked and raised children, and we know NOTHING about them.

In many ways, my business is about preventing this happening for our future generations. But it has also had an unexpected benefit, tapping into my desire to tell my own stories, which I now share through my blog.

It’s rekindled a passion for writing that had been long forgotten, and is taking on a little life of its own.

Thanks for this post, I will definitely share.

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Jeanne June 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Hi Annabel,
I totally agree about the benefits of writing personal stuff. I only have one blog and that’s also my business site, but I find that when I write ‘every day’ stuff I get a whole lot more response and comments and I love that. I do add the occasional tip or bit of advice, but on the whole I get more enjoyment out of writing for the love of it!
Thanks for your post,
Jeanne

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Lana February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

I have an essay/memoir/food blog and I have been sharing a lot of my personal memories with my readers. I received so much great feedback that I know my writing is reverberating in the right way. In the beginning it was just an exercise to see if I can translate my style of writing into English, which is not my mother tongue.
My blog is not huge, as my entries are long and text-heavy, but I am thrilled by the quality of my readers and their unwavering support.
After about 18 months of blogging, I am very confident that I can make it as a writer, and I owe it all to being myself and offering my stories to the outside world:)
(BTW, I can so relate to being forced to recite and sing my own creations – I really do not want to relive the horror of those early days:)

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jesse hillz March 8, 2012 at 7:15 am

i really liked the tips and i am glad i came across this site because i myself am o personal life experience writer,mostly fun,humuor but still educative too

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