Become a Superhero: Learning About Yourself Through Writing

Written by Albert Finch

Any human life can be presented in the form of a story. It has its ups and downs, motivations, dialogues, plots, and villains. When we think about our lives, we imagine a story in one way or another. There is a climax somewhere in the future, and there are inner demons from the past that keep us from reaching our goals.

Kim Schneiderman, author of Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life, offers a step-by-step process for a writing exercise to help you describe your life, find meaning in it, and figure out where to go next. This exercise is a great example of cognitive and writing therapy. Many studies have proven that expressive writing itself can improve physical and mental well-being. So arm yourself with a notebook and a pen and start getting to know yourself with this guide by

Write your life story in the third person

In the third person, not the first, it allows you to distance yourself emotionally from your personality and be more objective. Plus, it’s an extremely interesting experience when you use the pronoun “he” or “she” instead of “I.” You can also think of a new name or nickname for yourself.

One study found that thinking about yourself and your life from a third-person perspective can help you better handle your emotions, feelings, and thoughts and become less stressed. Researchers say that “self-distancing provides us with a valuable structure that helps us not only reduce stress but also to look at it from a different angle, that is, to reframe situations.

We are used to thinking about ourselves automatically, without even thinking about the fact that this opinion is subjective. Whereas looking at ourselves in the third person is a great attempt to become objective, to see the big picture.

Identify the protagonist in your writing

The protagonist is the main character, i.e., you. You need to write in 5-7 sentences about his past (do not forget that in the third person). If difficult, answer the following questions:

  • What are the main facts of the protagonist’s life? Age? Gender? Marital status? Current place of residence? Work?
  • What was his/her childhood like? How did it affect the protagonist?
  • What are his/her strengths? What about his/her weaknesses and vulnerabilities?
  • What does the protagonist want? What is he seeking, and what is he desperately striving for?
  • What stands in his way? What happens if the protagonist doesn’t get what he wants?

Maybe you’ve answered these questions before, but you did it in the first person. So maybe this time, the answers will surprise you.

Take stock of the current chapter of your life

It’s very helpful to realize that the current situation in your life is only one chapter in this book, this big story. And no chapter can define the whole book, even a very unpleasant one.

Think about what two or three words you can use to name your current situation. This will be the title. Expand on it with 10 sentences. The time span may be long (five to ten of the last ten years), but ideally, it should not be more than one year.

You don’t need to go too deep into this chapter of your life; write about it in general terms. And still, remember to write in the third person.

Identify your antagonist in your writing

The antagonist is your enemy. Every story has an antagonist. However, it’s not always a person, and the antagonist can be any opposing force.

It must be the enemy of your current chapter of life, but perhaps he has been around practically since the day you were born. In most stories, confrontations can be like this:

  • Protagonist vs. others: the other person-a is the boss, a colleague, a relative, a friend.
  • Protagonist vs. society: social circle, government, corporation, religion, science, tradition.
  • Protagonist vs. nature: natural disaster, storm, earthquake, apocalypse.
  • Protagonist versus self: negative beliefs, pessimism, behavioral patterns, addictions, physical or mental illness.

Your story can include more than one antagonist. You can take something from each item. Almost all good stories have protagonist vs. protagonist confrontations because competent conflict can lead to interesting outcomes and make the story incredible.

Create dialogues between the protagonist and antagonist

Even if the antagonist isn’t human, that shouldn’t stop you from creating a dialogue between the two of you.

Take the protagonist vs. protagonist conflict as an example. What aspects of the antagonist work against you? Perhaps your current chapter of life is filled with fear, insecurity, and anger. You can create dialogues between yourself and these emotions.

Protagonist: You come into my life every time I try to change. Why do you do it?

Fear: My job is to protect you. I don’t want to hurt you.

Protagonist: I understand, but sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my potential. Do you really need to protect me from everything?

Fear: You’ve been hurt in the past; I don’t want that to happen again. I want you to be safe, no matter what!

Protagonist: Thank you for wanting to keep me safe. But sometimes, stepping outside your comfort zone is essential if you want to grow and evolve. Can you at least step aside once in a while to let me make my own decisions? Even if it would be a mistake.

Fear: I’ll try to step aside. But I can’t promise anything.

This dialogue could be much more conflicted, though; it’s up to you.

Introduce supporting characters

The main character usually needs the help of supporting characters (or rather, they help move the story forward, but in our case, their function is different). These characters can be more or less powerful than themselves.

Batman depended on the help of Alfred, and Harry Potter depended on the help of Ron and Hermione. Sometimes the supporting characters push the protagonist forward when he’s down.

Think about this: what are the supporting characters in your story? Family, friends, teachers? How do they bring out the best in you? How do they help in your adventure?

Often the simple realization that wonderful people surround you is enough motivation to keep going.

Imagine a climax or denouement

Now you need to write your story. You know where you’ve been (past), you know where you are (present), and now you can think of how the story will develop and how it will end.

First, think of how the current chapter will end. Write 5-7 sentences about how the protagonist defeats the antagonist. Better yet, come up with several similar stories, so you don’t have to focus on just one thing. Be more creative. Let the ending of the chapter be unexpected.

Think about how the story will develop further. After all, there will be new antagonists, but at the same time, you will find supporting characters. Put your heart and imagination into the story. Create a climax.

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Use other elements of the story in your writing

Here are some other great tips that affect the quality of the story:

Tone. Pay conscious attention to the words and phrases you use when writing the story. Don’t be Kafka; get rid of gloom and pessimism. Dramatic stories with bad endings win Oscars, but this is your life story, and it should be filled with light, enjoyable moments and end with a happy ending.

Main Thought. Look again at your story’s past chapters and compare them to the current one. Do they have something in common that runs through your life as a red line? Why do you think so?

Symbolism. If you had to choose a symbol or object to represent the main idea of the current chapter of your life, what would it be? How could you integrate these symbols into the story?

Metaphors. Metaphors play a huge role in how we describe our lives and how we frame our experiences.

Epilogue. Wrap up the current chapter of your story by summarizing how it will end. Look ahead to the near future.

Take an artistic look at your life. You may well find the answers you’ve been searching for. History can do wonders for you.

About the author

Albert Finch

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