Humans are natural storytellers. Stories breathe on our skin, stick between our words and crunch under our feet. It is only through stories that we consciously and unconsciously make sense of our place on this planet called earth.
As a fiction and ghost writer, I spend my days writing and editing my own novels, as well as those of others. Sometimes I come across big, sprawling, fantastical tales set in other galaxies. Other days, I quietly transcribe painful autobiographies of abuse, grief, or failure.
Through doing this, I have learnt something important. We have the power to define our own stories, and decide on the language we use to tell them. This is simple, but at the same time, it's not. As women, we are so often mired in the mud of speaking down to ourselves, undermining our achievements with a constant underlying story: 'you are not good enough.'
It starts with language, calling ourselves 'stupid' or 'useless' when we make a small mistake. Rejecting compliments with 'oh this dress is so old,' and 'actually I still need to drop another size.' It extends to how we describe external things as well, calling challenges 'impossible,' or our job as 'hopeless.' Every word that comes out our mouths is borne of a decision to view something a certain way.
Fiction writing is powerful in that the writer gets to decide the path of a story. Everything that happens is part of a greater plot, leading us to a resolution. Life is often stranger than fiction, so why can't the rules of fiction be applied to life? Maybe you didn't get that job because there is something better in the next chapter, or you're battling with debt to emerge victorious and learn a valuable lesson. The random guy/girl you agreed to have coffee with because there was nothing better to do? Maybe they're about to become a leading character in your life and go on many adventures with you.
Obviously, not everything happens for a reason. Life has a way of pushing us into a corner and roughing us up until we're bloodied, breathless and unsure of how we will be able to get up. But the most powerful books I have ghost-written so far, have been the ones where women are re-telling their stories and framing what they have been through to mean something. Even when they are broken, bruised and still figuring out, they shine with the realisation: "I am still here. I am still trying. I am, it seems, good enough."
So for now I'm looking back at my story, trying to love myself through the tough parts and give myself credit for the successful parts. I'm trying to exorcise the notion in my life that to be a woman means to constantly be trying to be better.
You can buy the Authentic anthology here. All proceeds go to Women for Women International.