The perils of sugar-coating your story

Silence Censor Restraint - by ksawyer via Flickr

I know a lot of writers.

Many of them (including me) share personal stories as their way to help others and to change the world.  Some of them even submit those stories to magazines, literary collections, publishers, and blogs to get their message out to more people who need to hear it.

And as a writer of personal stories, sometimes you come up against someone who wants to edit your work.  Not just in the sense of fixing your grammar; they’re cutting out vital voice, deleting essential details, and nixing important narrative.  They want to remove the not-so-pretty bits, to “clean it up” so that it’s more palatable and accessible to a broader range of people.

This cannot stand.

Not just in writing –  it’s unacceptable all the time, ever.  Your story – the tale of your life on this earth – is important.  Telling it in all its flawed splendor helps you connect with others who share elements of your life; it helps other people to find solace, closure, joy, and support in their own stories.

The dark, ugly patches are just as valuable and meaningful than the bright spots. Perhaps more so.

When our stories – our lives – are edited for the lowest tier of understanding or parts of it are muted to make the message more digestible, everyone loses because the authentic truth is censored.

Don’t allow anyone to deface your story and its power by leaving out the parts that are less than perfect.

And don’t let yourself do it, either.

It’s one of the worst kinds of self-hatred to delete the parts of yourself that don’t measure up to someone else’s stick.  Stay with you; remember every chapter and honour them.  Sugar-coating the sour, bitter parts of our lives serves no one.  At best, it’s a pretty story with no meaning; at worst, it’s misleading propaganda that makes others form the wrong conclusions about their own stories.

The hard, nasty, unairbrushed chapters of your story are where you learned and grew the most.  They’re the crucible in which you were gloriously forged, the dark night of the soul that helped you embrace the light, the lick of chance that pushed you in the right direction.  Covering up the unpretty bits does everyone a disservice because it paints an unrealistic picture. It’s a lie.

Tell the unvarnished truth of your dark story, and let no one tell you it’s unworthy of sharing.


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