Katie Dalebout’s Pivot: Writing Doesn’t Heal ALL Wounds, But It Does Heal Some

Transitions are universal and inevitable, regardless of age we’re constantly evolving. And while change can, at times, feel messy and uncomfortable, it’s through these metamorphoses that we learn success. All of my greatest lessons have come as a result of a pivot after a failure. These pivotal movements have made fertile ground for growth. Through the exploration of these transitions and changes it is my hope that fullest readers will feel less alone in knowing that others are going through the same trials and celebrations. As I move through my Saturn return and the tail end of my 20’s I find myself mining for life’s gems and sharing the lessons I’ve learned (and still continue to learn) through personal essays, lists, and interviews.

Enjoy my monthly column, Pivot for the fullest.

In middle school, I never would have imagined I’d someday enjoy writing. I liked English better than Math but that wasn’t saying much. This suddenly changed in high school when my freshman English teacher plucked me out from my peers and told me I had potential. 

For a kid with super low self-esteem — this off-handed compliment changed me. I doubt she even remembers, but I recall the moment in vivid detail. It was my essay about Hemmingway’s classic Old Man and the Sea and her comment was a dopamine wave for me to ride on until college. 

Once there, I instantly selected my major: journalism, the most sensible of all majors that involved writing. 

I didn’t believe in myself, but I kept getting teachers that did… so I kept writing. I signed up for every student magazine in order to build a portfolio of clips so that I could get hired by a magazine and move to New York and be like the plethora of women journalists I admired in romantic comedies.

Well, that never happened (although I did move to New York and I do write this column, so it wasn’t that far off…). The media industry was vastly changing and I entered at the height of blogging so, it was only a matter of time before I joined the pack and started writing about myself personally.

I started on a whim, never guessing that nearly a decade later it would grow into a podcast, website, and eventually my full time job. I hoped my writing would find an audience because that would allow me to do more of it, but I never anticipated how writing — particularly vulnerable writing and sharing — would change my career, relationships, and self-confidence for the better. 

Growing up I was too busy trying to fit in to even know what I was into much less able to find a community that I actually fit in with. Blogging gave me a place to sort out who I was, expressed it in real time, and ultimately developed a community who could relate.  

Sharing about my fears, doubts, and anxieties, as well as my wishes, hopes, and dreams made me feel seen and connected — something I never even knew I was craving. 

The more I let it out the better I felt. Not everything I shared was heavy but when I shared a story that revealed my most vulnerable, tender self, it was cathartic. 

I now had a place to tell these tender types of tender tales — things we don’t bring up in a job interview, to acquaintances, or on a first date. They were stories I hadn’t even shared the entirety of with my closest friends and family. They were the parts of me that made me feel isolated, embarrassed, and less adequate. I wrote about my eating disorder and published it on the Internet before I ever spoke about it with my family, because it seemed easier to share with strangers than people I actually knew. Writing and sharing became my practice ground to be vulnerable IRL. If I could share honestly with strangers then surely I could also in conversation. 

Suddenly, as a result of my writing I was able to relate to others and myself in ways I never had.

In an often lonely world, there’s a fine line between oversharing and sharing to connect. As Cazzie David outlines in her July 2019 article “Instagroan” for Grayson Carter’s Air Mail, posting about how undone our lives are has become a new form of clickbait. 

It’s all a bit unnerving when you realize the shift from bikini photos to crying selfies could have something to do with the fact that they get the same amount of likes and comments. I know all of this talk about anxiety is good because it “normalizes it,” but since when was anxiety not normal?” she asks. 

Having grown up on the Internet I both love and hate that I have the inclination to write and post when something major happens to me, both good or bad. When I got my book deal, I wanted to post my feelings about it just as bad as I had wanted to share my experience when I was in the hospital for kidney stones. The rules I try to live by are to always keep at least a bit of time between you and what you’re sharing and never tell stories that aren’t yours to tell. When I write about situations that involve other people I’m mindful to be truthful, kind, and solely stick to my perspective of the situation. 

I constantly remind myself that writing doesn’t take the place of therapy, processing, and doing the actual work to grow — but it can help with the first step to change: awareness.

Here are my rules for writing in any capacity — for an Instagram caption, on a blog, in a journal, or in a letter to a friend. Wherever you feel safe to share your vulnerable tender tales, share them, because it makes the world a little cozier. 

Be self-aware —

Having an outlet allows you to be a curator, regardless of your niche; the common thread of your work is that you’ve chosen it. This allows you to see what you like enough to share — and from there it’s easy to see patterns identify your unique tastes.

Show people who you are and what you’re into —

As you become more self-aware, the people in your life become more aware of your unique interests and personality. Since the people in our lives have known us through many iterations, it can be scary to explain the changes we’ve made for fear of them not taking us seriously. Posting for all to see on a blog or getting a personal article published announces to the people who have known you forever, “Look, this is what I’m into now, it’s all laid out here.” The more you are yourself online, the easier it will be for you to be yourself offline.

Connect with community —

Through the raw content I’ve shared on the Internet I’ve been able to connect with people all over the world. I’ve traveled continents to meet people who’ve connected with me though stories I’ve shared, I’ve stayed on their couches, met their families, and been to their weddings. It’s a giant network out there, and you may be surprised to see who is reading your words! 

Be open to therapeutic vulnerability —

Just like with journaling, writing about what you’re going through in real time is extremely therapeutic — and then sharing it with the public takes it to a whole other level! As Brene Brown says, shame can only exist when you keep something a secret, so when you share your feelings of fear and self-doubt, the shame dissolves.

Keep creating creative challenges —

Like any form of self-expression, writing gives you the opportunity to continue creating content and evolving your craft as you develop your voice. It gives you an opportunity to share things in unique ways that feel authentic to you… whenever you want!

Katie Dalebout is a writer, host, and founder of Let [a podcast] Out, a workshop that helps people DIY podcast. Since 2013, she has interviewed nearly 300 people on her long-form podcast, Let It Out. Her first book, Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling is a collection of personal essays and journaling prompts that was published in 2016. She now writes about her feelings monthly in her Let It Out Letter. Katie, her feelings, and all of her plants live together in Manhattan.

Photo by Nick Hagen. Illustration by: Juliet Romano Design.

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