Your story could change someone’s life. I’m not being dramatic here. This is the truth. I’ve seen it happen. My own life has been transformed by other peoples’ stories, and readers have written to me to say that my stories have changed their lives.
As an author and writing mentor, my goal is to help people find a sense of belonging and their life’s purpose in this beautiful, broken world through writing and sharing their stories.
See, we all have two deep fears:
1. That life is meaningless.
2. That we are all alone.
Writing and sharing our stories heal both of these fears. When we write our stories, we make meaning, which when shared with readers, helps them make meaning. Our stories about love, loss, grief or despair, makes others feel less alone in the darkness of their own lives.
Here are four rich ways for you to start thinking about your story and get your creative juices flowing:
1. Write about your family history.
Explore your historical roots and group identity through your family tree. Look for the gaps, the stories, missing links and patterns that have shaped you. Investigate the ways in which family, religion and nationality have and continue to influence who you are.
What are the stories that make up your family's past? How were women treated in your family? What were the traditional or religious messages that were handed down? Where is the ‘guilt’ that was passed on? Who had or has power in your family? Who is the scapegoat? Who was criticized? Who or what was honored? Look at what you need to make visible in your history, what you need to remember and what you need to forget.
2. Write about the social experiences that have shaped you.
What are the human connections that have shaped you and your experiences of yourself: lovers, partners, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers? Examine marriage and parenthood (or other powerful connections) as formative.
How were money, sex, power and control managed in your family? All relationships help us to know ourselves, and create opportunities to learn through experiences of forgiveness, anger, trust, loss, loneliness, tolerance and generosity.
3. Write about your connection with nature.
The elements of earth, wind, water and fire are aspects of our identities. Write into the earthiness of when you have felt grounded. Write about when you have felt the lightness and freedom of having wings, when you have felt the fluidity of emotion, and the passion of fire. How do these manifest in you?
Investigate your connections to nature including with animals and the environment. A connection with nature brings up issues of trust, respect, responsibility and personal honor. Ask: what must I bury? What must I let go of? Where is the flow in my life? Where is the source of personal illumination and heat?
4. Show your beliefs.
Explore your deepest values, ethics and beliefs. Examine your emotional truths, and explore how you are courageous and creative. Have a conversation with yourself about faith, inspiration, spirituality and devotion and the ways in which you honor yourself through your work and creativity.
Go into your story with courage. Take a lantern and a shovel. Light the path for others. Dig deep. Come back and tell us your stories.