On Personal Narratives by Emma Bernstein

For the past two weeks, the Creative Writing department has been working on personal narratives with Margo Perrin. I came into this unit knowing one thing, and that was that I was bad at personal narratives. In fact I hated personal narratives. When asked why, my answer has always been that I am just bad at telling the truth. This is partially accurate. I do find it difficult to write about true events without filling in blanks, altering facts for convenience, and upping the tension by exaggerating the story. In the past two weeks, however, I’ve learned that these are generally accepted methods of writing memoire and personal narratives since no one can remember every detail of their life perfectly and the goal of a writer is to make our work enjoyable and entertaining to read. 

Despite this discovery, I am still uncomfortable with the process of writing personal narratives. When trying to think of why writing about myself and people I know makes me uncomfortable, I think of something Margo has said many times over the course of this unit: “Your stories deserve to be told.” 

I think it’s just hard for me, and probably others, to think of their own life as a series of fascinating stories that people might want to read. It’s even harder to think of people that we know as characters when we understand that they have so many more dimensions than we could ever put on a page. From this sense of inadequacy comes guilt, a feeling that we are giving our own stories too much time and effort and that we are not properly representing the situation no matter how many times we try. The trick to writing personal narrative, one I’m still trying to master, is to tell yourself again and again, “your stories deserve to be told.” Maybe someday you’ll even believe it. 

Emma Bernstein, class of 2017

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