Exploring the transition from experience to story

whats your story 4I struggled to walk during my third pregnancy because my pelvis separated too far, too soon. At the age of 39, I became reliant on a mobility scooter. Pregnancy hormones helped me cope, the nine months during and after the pregnancy where I could only walk a few feet with crutches are a blur. Despite that, I finished a book and won an award for it in the 6 months after K’s birth. And while promoting the book, I told my story. I spoke it, I wrote it, I turned it into a press release, articles, blog posts. And what happened to me ceased to be simply my experience, it became a story, a thing itself, seen on paper, online. I no longer needed to be there for it to exist. In print, replicated, communicated, my story became something else.

This research project examines the transition, the leap, the moment where experience becomes something separate from the person, a story.

Exploring the transition from experience to story is important because we live in an age where our lives are not private in the way that they used to be. There is a compulsion to share, to have our fifteen minutes of fame, or simply to update our status on Facebook. Whether it is writing a blog, or appearing in a tabloid, or self-publishing a book, publication is now accessible in a way it has never been.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????People who have life changing experiences feel compelled to share, but rarely understand fully what will happen once they have shared. In sharing, you become vulnerable as you expose key parts of what makes up your life, your story, your self. Once your story is out there, you have limited control over the results.

This study will help increase our understanding of the act of sharing a story in the 21st century. In particular, it will focus on the moment when the person’s life experience separates from them, of the feeling it has become something else, a fiction, a story.

Through this study I will interview people to explore the transition from experience to story. Beyond that, the approach will be cross-disciplinary, bringing in my experience in creative writing, journalism and healthcare. I will use autoethnography, writing my own ‘experience to story’, and as I interview people I will write an online journal of response to the experiences / stories. I intend to publish all the material on a blog, provoking the feeling of an experience, a verbal description, a retelling, becoming something else.

Every day, hundreds of journalists interview case studies. Thousands of people write and share their own stories on blogs and in memoirs. This study will help the journalists, case studies, bloggers and writers understand more about what they are doing. On a secondary level it may help health and social care professionals advise those who want to share their story.

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Antonia Chitty

I'm a writer and author of over 20 non fiction books.

3 thoughts on “Exploring the transition from experience to story”

  1. I have a story to tell…it impacts on my day every day… I did have counseling but I didn’t find it terribly helpful..my life is hard anyway I care full time for my severely autistic daughter and she is part of the story. I am acutely aware that people in my life would be affected if I went public with my story but I need closure.. I carry the story around with me all of the time.. sometimes it’s unbearable and that’s when I hit the wine! Sometimes I feel suicidal because I can’t find a way out of the greif…but no-one died. I desperately need to tell I can’t believe it happened to me and time rather than being the great healer is the tormentor. I have thought about calling the Samaritans before but I haven’t. Just doing this is something which may lead to nothing. Equally I have a responsibility which in itself is a weight too much to bear. Even now although doing this is cathartic I hesitate to press send.

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    1. Well done for writing this down. Do keep looking for ways to share to help you find closure. Writing is a great place to start, do talk to your GP about counselling because it may be more helpful with a different counsellor, and if you feel suicidal don’t be afraid to reach out to services like the Samaritans. You don’t have to deal with it on your own

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