I’ve been thinking a lot today about who I am when I write — and I don’t mean who I identify myself to be in this life, but who I am as a narrator — because when I journal, I can write from many different perspectives. Depending on what I’m writing about, I can be the wounded victim, the wise grandmother, the young child, all three, or someone entirely different. Which perspective serves me best depends on what the story is I want to tell. Whether it’s to myself (as in my journal) or to others (as in memoir or personal essay). All perspectives are real and true. It’s simply a matter of who I want to be my storyteller.
This week’s journaling prompts are designed to help you be more aware of who you are, as narrator of your own life story.
- Read a random sampling of seven past journal entries. Identify and label who was narrating each journal entry (what role were you playing, what perspective did you give?).
- Think of a time in your life when you felt hurt by someone else’s actions. Write about that event from the viewpoint of the victim. Now, write about the same event from the other person’s viewpoint, in effect playing devil’s advocate with your victim narrator. Read the two different versions. What can you learn from writing about something from these two different viewpoints?
- Pick a third viewpoint — casual observer, wise older person, mature adult, or some other person, and write another version of the story, combining the three viewpoints.
- Write about a problem you had today, then write about it as though you are writing from a distance of five years in the future. What is the difference in tone? Does the problem seem as important to your future self as your today self?
- Another way to think about perspective, is to think about it in terms of distance. In #4, we wrote from a different time perspective. Pick an event in your life and write about it from two different physical perspectives. For example, if today I had a conversation with my daughter, I could write about the conversation as if I’m me, reporting the conversation in present tense, or I could write about it as though I was someone looking in the window, reporting what I saw and heard. How might your story be different when told from a different physical perspective?
- Pick an object. Describe it when viewed up close … very close … and when seen from across the room. What do you notice about the object in each case that you didn’t notice in the other?
- Select a current emotional issue in your life (can be either negative or positive issue). Write about that issue from a negative point of view (cynical, pessimistic, angry, whatever). Now write about the same issue from a positive point of view (trusting, optimistic, joyful).
Do you usually write from the same perspective? If so, what is it? What can you learn about yourself through writing from different viewpoints?