​Are you Stuck in Your Story?


A common obstacle that challenges the practice of expressing one's story is starting. It is rarely obvious where to start or how to go about piecing together what feels like a mess. There is the fear of being incoherent. Instead of working with the cliche to "start somewhere" many never start leaving many stories untold. Worst of all they remain unexplored, fragmented and unprocessed within the individuals.

As Maya Angelou so poignantly states: 'There is no greater agony than baring a story untold.'

To "start somewhere" is to take a huge step forward, inward and to begin recovering what one hasn't satisfactorily acknowledged having to say.

Another obstacle is getting lost in the middle. All there is to include grow overwhelming. It feels as though it could fill volumes. It is near impossible to be objective enough with your story to see what's necessary to keep and what's better omitted.

The second set of professional eyes can help you to identify "the forest from the trees" and illuminate possible ways forward. It's important that you choose what feels right and true to your vision — furthermore, its essential to own your work and be clear on what is not under negotiation and why.

Essentially, story writing is an ongoing decision-making process regardless of whether the storyteller is consciously choosing one word, situation, character trait over another. Without the guiding presence of another who understands the mechanics of how the story works, and the creative process, it can be hard to recognise the most effective option to realising your story going forward or when it's necessary to go back and make better choices.

Without assistance, it may also get difficult to understand how to manage the physical, emotional and psychological self-care necessary when it comes to writing your story. Especially in instances where the story being written is metaphorically expressing and attempting to resolve a wound.

Not having an ending in mind can be problematic for some people throughout the writing process. The absence of a potential destination to drive the narrative towards renders the story vulnerable to growing out of control. If there's a starting point and an end point in mind, parameters are established to both plot and contain the middle within.

Even if the ending changes while writing towards it, to have one in mind also gives a sense of purpose and reason for persisting through the challenge of writing a problematic scene, event or encounter. It is because you know why you are writing it. The meaning and significance for it with regards to the entire story make it worth it. It also helps the storyteller to understand the best way to stage the driving conflict and why for that particular scene or chapter.

Another typical obstacle in writing a story is not keeping the distinction between life and story in the forefront of your mind. Life does not unfold according to a tight logic, progression, meaning or significance but the classical structure of story insists upon it. Storytelling time, space and your reader's attention is limited. Only what is essential to the story can remain. The messiness and what is mundane in life need to be cut. For example, you would never include taking a shower or going to the shops for dishwashing liquid unless something significant to the story happened in the shower or the trip to the shop.

The practice of writing a story involves engaging constructively and meaningfully with emotional experience. Consequently, the writing process can surface the long avoided emotions and linked memories. They can be too painful to bear alone. The good thing is that there is no need to navigate a way through the uncomfortable emotional terrain alone. A mental health professional or someone like myself can support you through what comes up throughout this undertaking.

Aspects of who we are, experiences that we have had and feelings that cause varying degrees of unease, confusion or conflict often indirectly inform the story. When these feel too confronting or threatening it is common to want to abandon the project or feel stuck. However, growth and other payoffs are waiting if you can get the support you need to proceed.