Dating Den Episode 157 – With Shawna Kenney: How to Use Narrative Writing to Uncover Your Blocks in Dating
Marni welcomes Editor, Author, and Writing Coach, Shawna Kenney into the den to discuss her award-winning memoir I Was a Teenage Dominatrix and to explain how writing out our journey can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves. Shawna edited Marni’s book, How to Find a Quality Guy Without Going on 200 Dates and she is a contributing editor of Narratively magazine and an instructor at UCLA Extension Writers Program.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- The power of writing your story
- How to reframe experiences from the point of view of others
- How to get started writing your hero’s journey
- How to identify your strengths
I Was a Teenage Dominatrix [2:36]
Shawna shares the details about the job that funded her college life. She answered an ad in the newspaper and without much sexual experience she worked for six years as a dominatrix in Washington, DC.
After becoming a journalist, she found herself telling stories around the office. Her story was different than the other memoirs she read at the time. For Shawna, being a dominatrix was a means to an end. She was free of drugs and alcohol and she wasn’t ashamed of what she did. Her narrative was different from others.
Shawna says ’writing your story allows you to reflect. The stories we hold are curated. We are the editors of our own story. It gives us a chance to look back at the facts of our lives and consider our strong points and have compassion for ourselves.
The Power of Writing Your Story [11:16]
As a writing coach and teacher, Shawna says that when writing the first drafts of our stories we sometimes miss our strengths. It is helpful to have a coach or have others read the story to point our strengths out. When we are the reader and the writer we look for negative aspects instead of the positive.
Other people can pull things out of your story that you may have missed because you were too busy living it to notice.
In a process she calls ‘Reframing It’ Shawna describes how we can start the writing process. Take one story and write it all out and then go back a few days later and write a second version with more compassion for the characters involved. Notice the changes with subsequent edits. You can tell the same story in a hundred different ways.
Psychological studies show that people who have themes of personal agency and exploration in their own stories have higher levels of well-being and less depression.
If you are having trouble getting started, consider what therapy would cost and consider the benefits of therapeutic writing. Unless you are thinking of publishing, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Find little bits of time. Take a class. Writing is a skill that can be sharpened and honed.
The Hero's Journey [18:46]
Shawna describes the hero’s journey. The hero hears a call to adventure which requires them to leave home where they encounter mentor figures. They form allies and friendships, then they encounter problems and enemies but through their experience, they are reborn and transformed by encountering new challenges and obstacles. They return home transformed and resurrected.
It’s a good exercise to see yourself as a hero of your journey and then seeing yourself as a character on the page. It helps you to identify your strengths.
Experiences shape us and they are all valuable. Even if you are hurting at first because of them you will find later they are valuable. You may even thank them.