One for the Vine – Writing the Story of Your Life

by Christian Krumm

The title of this text refers to an old song by the band Genesis. The song tells the story of a legendary man who is chosen to be a leader heading an army of soldiers into a war of fortune. Nowadays it might not be everyone’s most famous purpose in life to do something like this. But in most people’s lives, especially in writing, it is the question remains: Am I the chosen one? Is it me who can be successful with my own stories, written from the bottom of my heart, revealing my most private and intimate thoughts? There are so many others doing the same thing as me. And if I am brave enough to publish, will I be heard or hurt by people after they have read my story?

After surviving the first light and humble moments in writing, those questions arise like phantoms in almost everyone’s head. Did I say almost everyone? That is wrong. Everyone experiences these kinds of feelings. It is fear and shame that makes us think something we wrote is too embarrassing, too intimate or leaves the reader with an inaccurate impression of ourselves.

In that particular moment we stop writing and start thinking. Most people think their lives are ordinary – boring even. And in one sense, they are correct: Life is not possible without constantly compromising. This behaviour is expected and it is necessary in modern societies. So, if we get unsure about what we should write, our thoughts tell us that we should behave in writing in the way that is most successful in living. We start to compromise, start to write something which we think people expect from us and so we hide what is really deep down inside us.

But what matters is this: Feeling comes before thinking. Just imagine not only you but everyone around you behaving the way I pointed out above. That means everyone tries to cooperate, compromise, and conform – and above all, to hide whatever seems to set themselves apart. That means that for most of our daily lives, we’ll be meeting people who behave according to what they think, not what they feel. But by reading a story, even your story, they want to escape from the world of thinking and enter the world of feeling. In this world no life is ordinary. Feeling is what really connects people; it makes them overcome all the thinking and makes them say something like: I love you; I admire you for something you do; even: I hate you for something you have done to me. Feeling can change the world of one person the way all thinking never could. And this is exactly what makes a story interesting, fascinating and even unique.

So back to our first question: Are you the chosen one to do that? Of course you are, because, honestly, nobody is. Who will choose you, if you don’t choose yourself? If you write down your real-life feelings, turn them into a story, fantasy, thriller, crime or romance, you will find your reads: people who fell the way you do. You will find people who share the feelings you wrote about. And people will love you for that.

So sit down and write the story of your feelings in life. Write about people you love, you hate, you adore or you feel pity for. Give them fantastic names and abilities, let them suffer or find their luck. Take off the shame and the fear of what other people might think about you after reading your text. You will offer them feelings they don’t experience in their lives. And that is what reading makes the act of reading so fascinating.

So, stop thinking. Start writing. Start feeling. Write the story of your life.

Author bio: Christian Krumm is a writer of novels and short stories. He teaches creative writing at the Universität Duisburg-Essen.

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