You Should Write

By Jamie TworkowskiOctober 20, 2015

TWLOHA was born from a story that i wrote in 2006. That story and the surprising response inspired a movie, which came out earlier this year. My first book, a dream come true, released a few months back. While it’s easy to see how writing has changed my life, those aren’t the reasons why i think you should write. And those aren’t the reasons i think you should tell your story and the stories of the people in your life.

You should write and you should share stories because you were made to be known. You should do those things to express yourself, because it’s too easy to keep secrets and because it’s too easy to buy the lie that your story doesn’t matter. You should write and share stories because your words might help someone else feel less alone, and that has a way of making you feel less alone.

We don’t have much control over where our stories go, which ones win awards or get made into movies, but we control whether or not we tell stories. And these days it’s tempting to judge everything by influence, to measure the success of a story or even a life by views and likes and followers. When i suggest that you were made to be known, i’m not talking about those things. Pain has a way of telling us to keep quiet, but hope requests the opposite. Pain suggests that we’re alone. When you begin to be honest with another person, in writing or simply in conversation, that honesty becomes contagious. When we tell our story and the stories that matter to us, it invites other people to do the same.

Donald Miller says that stories are “sense-making devices.” So when you tell stories, you help other people make sense of things, of this life and this planet, of pain and hope and fears and dreams. When you confess your questions, other people feel less alone in theirs. When you announce a burden, someone else realizes they are not the only one who struggles. When you ask for help, it gives someone else permission to do the same.

You should write. You should speak. You should share. You should tell your story and all the ones that move you. Because they matter. Because you matter. Because words are powerful and we’re all in this thing together, trying to figure it out, trying to be okay, trying not to be alone, aching to be known.

So here’s to you on this “National Day on Writing.” Add your voice and share your story using #WhyIWrite on Twitter and on Instagram. And more importantly, please know that your words matter and your story matters, because your life is truly priceless.

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Comments (34)

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  4. Justine

    How emotionally dark is the general population willing to read? I want to write and have so much to say! With NaNoWriMo coming up, I was finally thinking I wanted to put it down on paper but I’m terrified it will be overwhelming for people. Is there a point where you say, okay maybe that’s a little too much? Any help or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks,

    Reply  |  
    1. Abbey

      Hi Justine,
      The short (and maybe not so helpful) answer is that you will never know if you don’t put it out there. I think that you should, and I’m thinking that you think you should too- given that you’ve posted on the “You should write” page. I think that bravery is having the courage to say and show what is inside of you, even if no one is listening (and especially if everyone is). So, if you’re looking for encouragement, let this be a friendly push:) Just do it.
      Also, thanks for the info about NaNoWriMo! I had never heard about it before and I am going to sign up too. Life is too short not to say what you want to say- especially with this thing called the internet, where we can be as overt or as anonymous as we want.
      So yes, Justine. Do it. Don’t worry about who is or isn’t reading. And I’ll do it too. Best of luck!

      Reply  |  
    2. Angela

      Your story is yours. Write what you feel needs to be written. Write what YOU want to write. Write it all.

      Reply  |  
    3. rozi

      I just thought you should know that this year I started writing and sharing with the children and adults at my school it helps to get your story out there even if they dont know the story is about you.

      Reply  |  
  5. Amanda

    Please write. While you think it may be dark, it may bring light to others. What have you got to lose?

    Reply  |  
  6. Jaden

    I’ve struggled with this idea of sharing my story and not being silent – I want to, I really do, but I still hesitant. Come November 1st I will be three years self harm free, and I have no doubt that I will get there. I really want to share that with people on my facebook page because I know that it could help other people, but I’m scared of the response I might get. Scared of the looks and judgments. Anyone else?

    Reply  |  
  7. Clara

    I wrote a memoir and I was all set to rewrite it, you know, smooth out the rough edges, make it more palatable, but then I read this thing online about memoirs and it made me stop everything and re-evaluate my motivations. What’s the real reason I want to tell my story? I was so stumped that I even deleted all the stuff I’d been writing on my blog since 2011 and decided to start again from scratch. I didn’t know right away why I wanted to tell my story. I just knew I couldn’t do it simply to be noticed, admired, and loved. I couldn’t do it just so that I could boast of being a published author. Granted there are noble reasons to tell my story but until the selfish ones faded away, I’d never truly be able to embrace the story that never really was mine to begin with. I didn’t create me. I didn’t create all the things that happened to me. Those things just happened and I learned from them. Of course, now I’ve found a reason to share my story but I won’t tell you because it is for me. You must find your own reason to share your story. Hope this doesn’t sound too preachy or anything. I love stories. I’m attending a workshop next week about multimedia storytelling in which I’ll be telling someone else’s awesome story. Keep the stories flowing.

    Reply  |  
    1. Deanna

      Thanks Clara for your comment….your words have given me stuff to think about. Actually, I’ve already been evaluating why I write,why I maintain a blog, are my words worth anything to anyone or am I simply putting stuff out there for the wrong reasons. I’ve been thinking about still writing my blog posts but just not publishing them…keep them in an electronic journal of sorts on Evernote. Trying to discern if what I am writing is valuable to others or is it narcissistic in nature? -I am not narcissistic but I think maybe my writing is…if that makes sense. Anyway…your words have been helpful so thanks.

      Reply  |  
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  9. Jordan

    I never shared my story, or at least the honest version of it anyways. Many times spent through counseling, inpatient hospitals, and outpatient rehab counseling were not pleasant times. At one point my rehab counselor told me to “fake it until I make it” after my many failed drug tests; the lies just kep growing. So then it happens, i finally turn 18 and decide No more asking for help. i cant even understand whats going on in my head so how could anyone else? There’s a stigma to mental health, yes that’s very true; yet there is also a stigma for people struggling with addiction. In all my years of endless therapy, to which I actually wanted the help at the time, the one thing I learned was only how to be a Better liar, which only pushed the truth of my story deeper inside. “You feel like dying? Send her to the mental hospital!” “Heroin addict? Rehab time!” I kept getting high, even after all the counseling. I was afraid to admit how bad it was for fear that I’d be judged just like all the times prior. If you also struggle with addiction, you’re not alone. If you’re afraid to admit how bad it really is, know that I’m truly sorry you feel that way but whether you make the choice to get help or not, you are not alone. This is such a small scale of my whole story, but I’m still fighting every day, I’m still living and breathing and able to write this today which means there is always hope for a new start.

    Reply  |  
  10. Tiffany

    I feel so foolish for even admitting to my addiction to food. I can’t stop eating and I am so unhappy with my body. I am addicted to the food. I feel numb when I am eating and afterwards I feel like the grossest human being. I want to be loved but I need to love myself first. I am so scared and feel so empty.

    Reply  |  
    1. Jamie

      Tiffany, Thanks for being so brave as to share that. i’m sorry for the pain. My hope and encouragement would be that you realize you don’t have to be alone in this. It’s okay to ask for help and it sounds like maybe it’s time. Check the FIND HELP section of this website and connect with a professional in your area. There are good people who would love to walk with you through this. i’m rooting for you. Peace to you.

      Reply  |  
      1. Tiffany

        Thank you Jamie!!

        Reply  |  
  11. Alysha

    Thanks for this. I get it.

    Reply  |  
  12. Renae

    Thank you for writing. These words have been my experience also and it’s because of TWLOHA that I first began sharing my story with others and in the process found that I was so very not alone. And my heart was stretched as others shared their pain and I found a new purpose for my life besides my own healing and that was to encourage others to seek theirs. Our stories fuel Hope.

    Reply  |  
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  16. bellla

    Thank you always. I have an exceptionally hard life. Beautiful, but hard. For a long time I kept things hidden. A few years ago I began to share for the exact reason of hoping others will feel less alone. Recently, I got told that two people who were some of my closet friends, feel I use my situation to get sympathy (I genuinely do not like sympathy, it makes me feel awkward) They said I try to out do others with my experiences. None of this is true. Sharing things doesn’t mean it’s comparing or outdoing. I can’t help how my life is. I can voice things to help others. Yet when doing that very thing gets twisted, it’s hard. But, my point. If anyone reading this has ever had the same, please don’t stop sharing. You can live in your truth, no matter how others decide to perceive things. I read a quote once of how if everything you do comes from an honest, solid place, that’s all that should matter. I’m trying to honour that. It’s darn hard tho, hurt has a way of living outside of our beliefs or knowledge doesn’t it. And if you feel alone, know others do too. Maybe it’s that person you see on the bus, maybe it’s a stranger who smiles your way, maybe you can say hi.
    God bless

    Reply  |  
  17. Katie

    I’m so thankful for everyone s story and for this site. It’s saving me write now. Thanks be to God. I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I use to be but I’m okay and I’m on my way.

    Reply  |  
  18. wolff guy

    no speack english, sorry; j’ai 72 ans j’ai traversé des moments terribles, et seul !!! par contre j’ai aider beaucoup de personnes à sortir de l’ enfer; des proches et des inconnus.Je pense avoir fait tout mon possible; à mon époque pas d’associations, et j’ai traversé des secondes qui me semblaient des mois. la vie n’est pas un long fleuve tranquille. aujourd’hui tout va bien la famiile aussi; IL FAUT SE BATTRE POUR CHAQUE SECONDE DE SA VIE !! meci d’ avoir créer votre association et n oublier pas une personne à la fois. so long

    Reply  |  
  19. denice

    I am a victim of war… from my veteran fathers abuse ..
    20 or more suicide attempts.. have some addictions I hvnt been able to ovre come..

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Denice,
      We’re so sorry to hear that you’re struggling right now. Would you mind emailing us at [email protected]? We’d love to share some resources and words of encouragement with you. In the meantime, please check out our FIND HELP page to see resources in your area (as well as 24-hour helplines):

      Reply  |  
  20. Brittany

    Telling my story was not easy at all mostly because i was ashamed of everything i was dealing with, i didn’t know how to put it into words. Being addicted to ____ and binge eating food was never something i had ever admitted out loud. Until October 3rd, 2014 when i called my best friend asking for a ride to the emergency room. That day i made a decision to stop ____ and to get help for my major reoccurring depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, ptsd and binge eating disorder. Everyday i wake up i am making that decision over and over again, i never thought i could deal with the pain and suffering that these things brought every single day. A week later i was released from the hospital and i started the real challenge of fight alone. Well i thought at that time that i was alone but i now know differently and feel differently. I had heard about TWLOHA before but never fully understood what the story behind it was until recently. I have been a year sober well i haven’t ___ myself in a year. I was watching the To Write Lover On Her Arms movie then i felt that i needed to read the story that started it all. I never cry when i read things but that whole story i cried, Renee’s story touches me in so many ways. Reading the story all I could think was “there is hope”, I like where she says “To look up and remember the stars.” The love that I felt reading the story never having read a story so true and so beautiful, it really does give me HOPE. I know my story isn’t over and that I am meant to do so much more with my life. I want to inspire people but most importantly i want to give someone else HOPE for a better life. I will start today to write my story down on paper as a reminder of where i was and how far I have come. I also just want to say thank you so much Jamie, Renee, and the everyone else involved with TWLOHA i have NEVER know a community where i am not alone. THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME HOPE!

    Reply  |  
  21. Luciana Rosa

    Writing was always my way to put into words things that were hard to even think about. But tell my story to people is something totally different. It’s scary. But I’m getting there. I’m not gonna shy away from what happened to me and to things that I made to myself, it’s just my story and I know many others are hidden in silence because they think they’re alone too. Perhaps all I’ve gone through can serve on a good purpose if it can push even only one person into help direction. It’ll all have been worth.

    Reply  |  
  22. Claudia Johana

    I really do know that I have to speak about it, but everytime I’m about to, I just can’t… my throat shuts down and my feet moves back. I’m tired of being sad, I am so tired of being messed up, I’m tired of hurting myself and enjoy it, it is fucked up and it is wrong. I know I need help… but the thing is, I kind of don’t want it.

    Reply  |  
  23. Susan Nicholas

    My son and I listened to you several years ago at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa. Eight months ago he walked out of our life and didn’t say goodbye. His sister has lost her best friend. My husband and I have for the moment lost our son who we love more than the world. We will not give up on our son and wish him the best in his future. Everyone needs love and support from love ones. I hope others who are suffering stay strong and no that there is support all around them. Peace

    Reply  |  
  24. Genii Y.

    Hi Jamie,

    First off, thank you for TWLOHA. I am a Family Care Parent of a group home for troubled teenage girls and I have a little one who is deep in depression and self-harms. Any way I could ever write my experience as someone who loves and care for someone who self-harms? I think it may be helpful to those that self-harm to know the way they are REALLY viewed by the people that love them the most.

    Please let me know if this is a possibility.

    Thank you, again, for all that you do…for all of us.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Genii,

      Thanks for your comment! You can submit a draft of a blog post to [email protected]. Please keep your draft under 900 words (if possible) and be sure to include “Blog Submission” in the subject line of the email.


      Reply  |  
  25. Kate

    This is beautiful Jamie, thank you ❤

    Reply  |  
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