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Authority/Author: words with the same roots

A Few Steps to Assuming Writing Authority

To those who struggle with whether they should write or continue to write  a memoir, let me be clear: no one can give you the authority to write your story, to tell the truth about your life. You are the only person who can do that (Of course, others can help you along the way, but in the end, the leap is always  up to you.)

Here are a few steps to take along the way to accessing writing authority in the telling your story.

1. Give yourself permission to write your story.

Tell yourself: You have the right to tell your story regardless of what others may think, of how they might object. This is different from assuring yourself that you have the ability and the skills to write your story. This is about permission to go public, about going beyond “I couldn’t possibly have the authority to write that!” (You can even interpret “public” as the public of only one person—you.)

2. Use your voice, your point of view.

Tell the story from your consciousness, your point of view. Generally, this entails using the first person, the “I.”

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You write the equivalent of “This is how I feel about my story. This is my take.” As you write, do not fall into the trap of being a victim about your life. It is my sense that the victim does not take authority, but provides excuses for not fully owning the story.

Think about some of these points of view for your story: the forgiving person, the hero, the strong woman. These are power positions–the opposite of victim. It may be true that you need to start writing from where you are now and that may be from a feeling of a victim, but be conscious of needing to access the power of the storyteller and to go from less power to more power.

This is a story of a Tibetan monk who stayed behind in the monastery when all the other monks had fled the advance of the Chinese. A Chinese soldier found him and said, “Why didn’t you flee? Don’t you realize I could kill you now?” The monk replied, “Don’t you realize I could let you kill me now!” That is the difference between being a victim and a person with authority.

3. Understand the rightness of your telling your story.

Not only do you have permission to tell your story, not only are you using your voice to tell that story, but you also need to be imbued with the rightness of you being the person who tells this story. The world—or some part of it—needs to hear what you have to say. And… there is no better person to tell your story than you. You are a prophet (as in the Old Testament), a seer (as in Tiresius of Odyssey fame), a voice crying out in the desert (St John the Baptist). Now that sense of rightness will give you HUGE energy—read: authority—to persevere in writing your story.

4. Remember you are not a transcriber but the author of your story.

You can shape it to create the theme you intend. You are the orchestra leader, the chef of your recipe, the CEO of your writing project.

When you assume the writing authority to create your story, you truly become an author.

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