How the Course I Co-Created Changed My Life…and My Story

Kelly McNelis is one of my favorite people, and that’s not an understatement.

We began our collaborative relationship when I came on board as her editor and content alchemist over two years ago. I like to think that fate brought us together. We’re similar in just the right ways; that is, we’re passionate, outspoken, process-driven—and boy do we love content! We also balance each other out in just the right ways; while her mind races a gazillion miles a minute and she is an expert navigator of the big messy picture, I am an exceptionally level-headed stickler for organization and details. (Seriously, if I don’t write it down somewhere, it doesn’t exist!)

What began as a series of weekly dates to pick her brain and help synthesize the ideas that would eventually become her first book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman (to be published this fall), evolved into a deep relationship that continues to push me out of my comfort zone in the best possible ways.

When, roughly a year into our working relationship, Kelly said that she wanted to develop a writing course that “isn’t really for writers,” I was intrigued. Intrigue quickly gave way to an intensive endeavor: creating the course that both of us had always wanted to take but ended up learning via the school of hard knocks.

The result is Women For One’s signature online program, Truthteller: A Course for Boldly Claiming Your Story.

They say you teach what you most need to learn, and that couldn’t be any more true of our process. As we pored over copious notes of what we wanted to include; compiled exercises based on our own most rewarding (and harrowing) lessons in being brave, present, and honest; and sorted through our mountain of ideas to create a supportive container for our participants, we realized something major.

We weren’t just writing Truthteller. We were living it.

As we were creating this comprehensive program, which is all about claiming your genius by embracing and sharing the stories that have most shaped you, we found ourselves right in the trenches. Between dreaming and talking and writing and revising, we were drinking our medicine in giant doses. We were speaking our truth to difficult people, ending toxic relationships, identifying our individual genius in new ways, and breaking free of the patterns that had always kinda been in the background but were quickly making themselves glaringly obvious.

The eerie sense that we were paving a road that we were simultaneously traveling only got more acute. As I co-facilitated the first live iteration of the course, I dutifully went through each of the reflections and written exercises, alongside the participants. That’s how I ended up writing the story that I most needed to tell at that time—the one about my divorce, which had happened several years ago.

Honestly, until moving through Truthteller, I hadn’t even realized it was still lurking beneath the surface, along with several waterlogged memories that were weighing down my internal space and choking my capacity for joy. Nor did I know that being able to walk through some of the more painful details, as well as ones that shone with peculiar grace, would finally make me feel like I was stepping into a new chapter. One in which I had no regrets or grievances. One in which I could wholeheartedly accept the happiness that I’d been holding at bay because, deep down, I hadn’t believed I deserved it.

Today, I trust that we find our true destiny when we set down the baggage of our stories, and instead, allow them to be stepping stones along the way. This doesn’t mean simply getting over what happened or discounting our experiences as silly tall tales. It means giving our stories the reverence and care they deserve. It means acknowledging the impact certain moments had on us. It means allowing ourselves to feel our grief, anger, rage, sorrow, joy, wonder, and any other emotions that might feel too big or scary or painful to face. Ultimately, it means knowing the freedom that comes with the recognition that while we are not our stories, they can be wonderful allies. Not to mention, they are useful reminders of the damn resilient badasses we truly are.

At Wf1, we get a lot of testimonials from participants who’ve told us that Truthteller changed their lives. I know they’re not exaggerating, because in co-creating and moving through every single step of the course, I got to experience the same transformation.

Check out our new automated version of Truthteller. The stories that live inside you, just waiting to get out, will thank you.

Nirmala Nataraj

About the Author | Nirmala Nataraj

Nirmala Nataraj is an award-winning author, editor, playwright, and counselor whose work has ranged from freelance journalism to copywriting in the advertising industry to transformational book coaching for first-time authors interested in translating their ideas from their heads to the page. Raised in California, with most of her career experience concentrated in the booming creative region of the San Francisco Bay Area, Nirmala recently relocated to New York’s Hudson Valley. She is currently working on editing three different books and writing a play about Egyptian gods, commissioned by the San Francisco Olympians Festival. Find out more about Nirmala at www.nirmalanataraj.com.

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