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How do I know if I have a story to tell?

August 18, 2023

I love to write but I’m not sure what to write about. How do I know if I have a story to tell?

I’m asked this question all the time and here’s what I believe: If you’re called to writing, then you have a story to tell. The trick is figuring out which story or stories those are . . .and that can be simpler than you think.

When people ask me how I came to the decision of writing creative nonfiction, I always tell them that it happened naturally. I’d always enjoyed writing, but struggled for a long time to find my preferred genres. In my early school days, I thought I was a natural for fiction, but my teachers told me otherwise.

In college, recovering from the blow about my fiction writing skills, I started receiving positive feedback about my narrative style when writing research papers.

Hmm, I thought, maybe I’m onto something.

As I entered the workforce, I was able to dabble in longer form essays that honed my new narrative voice. I was able to prove the points I was writing about with with a creative flourish.

Which is how I found myself where I am now—an author who specializes in creative nonfiction. 

 

While that may seem the long route to finding your writing niche, I’ve also got some quick and easy questions to help you find your storytelling potential: 

 

 

1. Do you keep a journal or diary about your daily life? If so, what do your journal entries look like? Are they simple and straightforward, or do you write in full descriptive detail? Do you find journaling about your life enjoyable and something you so look forward to that you sneak in writing at every possible opportunity? If so, then perhaps you should think about exploring memoir—maybe your life is the story you’ve been looking for.

2. Do you journal, but prefer to write about what’s happening around you and not to you? Do you find yourself observing the world and the people in it? Do you ponder their backstories or seek out their tales? If so, then you are a natural for creative nonfiction, sharing the world through the lens of your minds eye.

3. Can you make up stories at the drop of a hat? Are you the kind that when a child asks you to tell them a story, you can spin a tale, complete with world-building and multi-dimensional characters? Do you find the opportunity to do so exhilarating? Then you, my friend, are on the path to becoming a fiction writer. And don’t be afraid to draw from your reality to create that work.

 

Once you have an idea of which genre suits you best, start noodling the first ideas that come to mind.

 

If, like me, you suddenly find yourself in a world that most people could only dream about living in, then write about it! Take advantage of what’s around you to inspire you!

If you fall on the fiction side of the house, then start jotting down those amazing plot lines and flesh out those intriguing characters. Also, this doesn’t mean that you’re forever tied to that writing genre, but it will help you get started, allowing your voice to develop and the stories to flow.

Don’t fight the stories that are already in your head, allow them to guide the way.

 

Bottom line: If you love to write, don’t make it hard!

 

Write what comes naturally, even if it’s just a few sentences here and there to begin. And, if you’re really stuck or you need some help, drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to chat about it!

Write on!

 

 

*For more from Julie, check out her Mission:Milspouse Author page or her Professional Writing Page.

 

Author

  • Julie Tully

    Cowgirl-turned-nomadic navy spouse, Julie Tully writes about life, culture and the places where they intersect. Her quirky lifestyle has taken her around the world, from rural Northern California to Europe and Africa. Julie’s writing has appeared in Legacy Magazine, Legacy Kids Magazine, InDependent, and Your Teen for Parents. Her memoir "Dispatches From the Cowgirl" was published in 2022 and details the years she lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, after spending eighteen years overseas, Julie and her family have embarked on an even greater adventure—rediscovering the United States. You can read more about Julie and her work on her website julietullywriter.com or follow along on her adventures via Facebook and Instagram, @julietully

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