Making stories public


Making your stories public isn’t an easy decision. There’s sharing and then there is sharing. How public do we want to make our stories?

Sharing everything is akin to living life out on a public stage, imperfections and all. I remember watching The Jetson’s as a child and thinking how intrusive the video phones were. Jane had her “morning mask” that she used to answer it, but what if the house were dirty? What if her hair a mess?

Even today, before I Skype or hangout on Google, I go put on a nicer shirt, brush my hair, and wish plastic surgery were an option.

That’s the beauty of a “Treasure Chest” of stories and memories versus a memoir. You have flexibility in your sharing. There are three strategies that you can take when it comes to making stories public–or not. And there are some good arguments for all three.

Keep your writings private.

This is the option that my grandma was most comfortable with. One reason that I’ve written a guide to telling and sharing the stories of your life instead of publishing my grandmother’s wonderful stories, is that Grandma didn’t want her writings published. Grandma shared some moving personal reflections. Keeping them in the family is a small price to pay for a gift of that magnitude.

Keeping your stories private—or relatively private—might allow you to write from a more honest viewpoint. You’re writing for family. As you start writing, you might still feel an urge to put on a clean shirt and wipe down the countertop, but you won’t feel you need to put on your Sunday best and only entertain in the parlor. As you keep inviting the same familiar loved ones into your past and your heart, you’ll feel more comfortable letting your hair down and talking about the dust bunnies in the closet and elephants in the room.

Bare it all.

Wenn schon, denn schon is one of my favorite German expressions. If you’re going to do it, then do it. For some people, taking a plunge is the best way to let go of fears and inhibitions.

You know the truisms. You are who you are and it is what it is. You’re writing to tell the truth, to process the past, and connect, not to worry about making a good impression. For others, who, like Kerry Cohen, who have lived with destructive secrets, baring it all comes as a relief.

Making stories public and sharing everything can be liberating, even if you’re not unveiling dirty family laundry. You’re intentionally turning off that internal censor that yearns to only present yourself in a great light. You’re choosing connecting and honesty over your inhibitions.

Riding the Fence: Share Some but not all

Making stories public and hidden chapters

Technology offers fence riders a great balancing act. Because we’re not limited to a notebook that we pass down or a book that we publish, we can pick and choose what we share.

You can find some stories and memories that you’d like to share far and wide. At the same time, you can assemble a collection that you want to share only with family members. If there are stories that might be hurtful if they are shared, you can share only with trusted confidants or perhaps only with your children and siblings.

If you ‘re sharing family stories, you can add stories to your private family tree, and upload a select few on a wiki or public family tree.

Make decisions as you go

Blogging, for instance, makes it easy to decide as you go whether or not making your stories public works for you. You can make posts private, or even password protect them, or publish and promote posts. Of course you don’t have to have a blog to do it that way. You can share stories by email or snail mail and simply choose your recipients carefully.

Not sure about making stories public?

Not sure how to decide what to share? There’s a whole chapter in my book about making those calls.

Your Turn:

How much do you feel comfortable sharing? How did you make the call?

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