January 26, 2022

Once upon a time

“I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was.” — Stanley Kunitz, US Poet Laureate 2000

I used to be a speechwriter for academic leaders, corporate chiefs and even the governor of Texas and his wife. They all had important messages to convey and I worked hard to craft interesting, memorable speeches for them.

I rarely got to talk to these busy people, but when I did, I asked them to tell me stories – stories about their childhoods, their professional lives and anything that would amplify their talking points.

I rarely got much to work with, but when I did, I considered it gold. That’s because stories are powerful. They create pictures in our minds and imprint emotions in our memories. An audience won’t usually remember the facts they hear, but they are likely to remember stories.

When I think about it …

I often tell stories to my husband, sister and friends.

I have a lifetime of snippets and tales to draw from – some joyful and some sad. But they weave the fabric of the tapestry that illustrates my life. They tell me and others who I am and what I value.

People are hungry for stories and always have been. As children, we want our elders to read us books or tell us stories.

I’ve been reading a book called The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. It’s about a traveling library system set up during the Depression to bring books to folks living in rural America. These books and their narratives changed lives by promoting literacy and easing the dullness of being impoverished.

We tell stories to ourselves…

Our brains must be hard-wired for stories because when we dream, our subconscious creates dramas that give us information about our true nature.

Psychologists tell us that whether we realize it or not, we all have a story about ourselves that we carry in our heads. And that becomes our reality, whether it’s true or not.

For example, I was a fat kid and all my life I’ve told myself I am still that fat kid (even though I’ve been at a normal weight since I was a teenager.)

My point is…

We all have stories to tell. Lots of people think they’ve lived uninteresting lives and have nothing to pass along. But they are mistaken.

All it takes is devoting time to thinking, remembering and writing. Do it for yourself. It will help you gain perspective on what you’ve been through.

And do it for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and all those important to you. You’ve got wisdom and joy to share. I guarantee it.

Writing spark

Here are some springboards for writing the stories of your life:

The most unforgettable person I’ve known is/was __________________________

The most memorable trip I’ve ever taken was _______________________________

My favorite pet is/was ____________________________________________________

My first memory from my childhood is______________________________________

When I was growing up, my dream was to __________________________________

“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world.” — Dorothy Allison, American writer

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