We all have one. Some are vastly different than others. A few are eerily similar, yet still not exactly the same. And all of them should be shared. What is it? Your Story. And maybe it is time to write your story.
Regardless of who you are, where you were born or your life’s circumstances, you have a story. You may consider it boring. It may feel mundane and uninteresting. Or it could be fraught with pain and fear or exhilaration and curiosity. But regardless, it is your story.
Perhaps it is time you begin to think about sharing it. Maybe not to the world at large, but there are a few people who may be very interested in what you have to say.
My desire to write my own story started while I listened to several family stories that had been repeated for years. At one point, someone made the comment, “I wonder what our great grandchildren would have to say about all of this.”
It made me realize that by not having these stories written down, many of them would be lost forever. And as someone who was never able to meet her parental grandparents, much less any greats, I often wonder what their stories were.
Before you can Write Your Story, you have to Truly Listen
Listening, not only with your ears, but also with your eyes, can go a long way towards helping you write your story.
The words themselves can be recorded. But many times, body language can shed so much more light on the story. Take my story as an example:
“Growing up, I was like most kids. My parents were ‘born’ the day I recognized them. I never truly thought about the fact they were kids one day, too. The teenage years for my parents were hazy at best, if I even gave it consideration. The fact my mom really was a young woman once came to light one day.
Her closest friend, Pat, had come to visit. I was in high school, and currently suffering ‘jail time’ (let’s face it, I was grounded until I was 65 years old) for skipping school. During Pat’s visit, I did more than my share of teenage moping. Pat noticed and asked.
That was close to 50 years ago, and to this day, I can still hear her laugh. At first, I thought she was laughing at me, but before the embarrassment could grab hold, I noticed my mom was shaking her head, and had a frown on her face. I recognized that look in her eyes. It said, ‘Shut up, Pat!’ (I knew, because that same look had been directed at me more times than I can count.)”
You Listen and Watch Closely, because There is Always More to the Story
“I knew something BIG was about to be revealed. I could see it in the way my mom tensed. Her brows creased with warning, but the corners of her mouth twitched as she tried to hold back a grin.
As quickly and as gently as I could, I encouraged Pat to do just the opposite. Spill!!! And, boy, am I glad she did.
It seems that one day, my mom, Pat and a couple of their friends decided to skip school. They boarded a train in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and headed to Chicago. That in itself wasn’t so bad, but I knew I at least had a few rounds of ammunition building up. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
It seems they went shopping and spent all their money. Like, in not having enough to get home. So, one of the girls had a brother who owned a bar. They decided to go there until they could either find someone to send the money to get them home, or they could figure something else out.
Now – keep in mind. Skipping school got me grounded until I was 65 (well, really only six weeks, but it felt like 45 years). But bars? Oh. I would have still been living with my mom until I was 90 at least.
That story not only got me off restriction immediately, but also made me realize my mom was more than a mom. She was a person. A woman. She had been a baby, a child, a teenager. There was a FUN woman behind the Mom shield! She began to become ‘real’ to me, in a way she never had been before.”
Try to Write Your Story from Different Perspectives
This story is an example of not just one person, but three. It tells a bit about who I was as a teenager, who mom was as a young adult, and about the fun friends she had. When you write your story, think about the different perspectives.
I kept a few of the details out for the purpose of the post. But overall, this would make a good addition to a chapter on either my mom or myself. By paying attention to mom’s body language (and getting more of the story later on), I was able to get her perspective on it.
My perspective was one of a typical teenager. I did it. I got caught. I went to ‘jail’. I got pardoned. However, I could add more of what I was thinking, why I skipped school in the first place, and what I felt about the entire episode.
And I can write it, because I truly listened – not just to the words, but also to my mom’s body language, and my own reaction.
You can write your story from multiple perspectives. Take a family story, and ask others what they remember, or their reactions to it.
To Write Your Story, you need to Pay Attention
One thing that moment helped me to do was to begin seeing adults in a different light. Take my Aunt Emily for example. Oh, she was a wonderful, loving, giving woman. But she was so strait-laced she was starched and ironed. Almost a cardboard cutout of a human.
Until I started getting her to reminisce. Then I learned of things that I almost couldn’t believe. Her teen years were in the middle of WWII. Their home was a few miles from Barksdale AFB. Somehow, the GI’s met someone who knew someone who hung out with Emily and her sisters.
Next thing you know, rugs in the living room were rolled up, Big Band music poured out of the windows and dancing was taking place. Including my straight-laced, starched and ironed, cardboard cutout Aunt Emily, who loved to do her dancing on the table!
That just didn’t happen….at least, that is what I kept thinking. Until my dad and her sisters confirmed that, yes, it definitely did. Several times.
Because of Aunt Emily, her dancing and her love of music, sewing and her nieces and nephews, I learned so much about her past. (And I learned to Jitterbug, and that Emily could give that Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy a run for his money!)
By paying attention and allowing someone to share their stories uninterrupted, you have an opportunity to hear ‘the rest of the story’, as Paul Harvey used to say. People come alive when they dive deep into their memories. And they become even more real than ever.
And that is what your future family will want to hear. They want to know the real people with whom they are related – not the fairy-tale version. When you write your story, add in the details, emotions, and impressions. Make it something real, but enjoyable to read.
Why I Wrote My Story
This got me to thinking. I have many relatives who have passed on, and I wonder who they were and what they were like. Unfortunately, other than a few memories of others who knew them, there is no way to know. No journals, no memoirs, not even a note on a scrap of paper.
Which to me is sad. Even if it had been through the pages of a book, I would love to have known Aunt Elizabeth, Uncle David, or Mamie and Granddaddy. Their stories would have been like gold to me.
I thought about all of this when I began to move my life in a totally, unexpected direction. Maybe it was time to write my story. I have grandchildren now. Although time may allow me to see them grow up into young men and women, I doubt I will be around when their children come of age.
Occasionally, those children, and their children, may hear stories of their crazy great-grandmother who went against the familial norm and went looking for greener pastures (quite literally, I might add – I have almost 60 acres of them). But I want to be ‘real’ to them.
My desire is for my greats and great greats to know I was willing to go against all odds and opinions to live my dream. To dance to my own band. And maybe, by doing that, I can offer encouragement from the Great Beyond for them to do the same.
So, I wrote my story.
Write YOUR Story
I know what you are thinking. What story? I’m boring! My life is boring! I beg to differ with you. There are people out there who will disagree with you. There may be future generations who still want to get to know you, even if it is through the pages of a book. You really do need to write your story.
Writing your own story doesn’t have to be difficult. Just start at the beginning. As you begin to think back, add a story or two. The stories don’t have to be just about you but can be about other family members as well. The important part is that you put the story on paper.
What to Write Your Story About
Here is the thing about writing. All too often, you find you have trouble putting the first words on paper. But once they are, your mind begins to open up, and more words are written. Before long, you may just have a waterfall of thoughts that are begging to be shared.
If you still aren’t sure how to write your story, here is a list of some of the things you can use when you write your story:
- Your birth – date, time, city, state, hospital
- Your family – parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, etc.
- Were you adopted? – when & how you found out, adoptive parents, biological parent search, etc.
- Education – what and why
- Earliest Memories – favorite foods, best friend, worst enemy
- Your Dreams & Goals – were they the same thing? How were they different? How did you blend them?
- First Crush / First Love – who? Age?
- Marriage(S) / Divorce(s) – what made you fall in love? Out of Love?
- Stories about other Family members
- A World View – from a child’s eyes to your current eyes
- Major Lifestyle changes – from what to what, and why
- Political Views – & why
- Your Favorite Vacation
- How I Spent my Summer Vacation – or the dread you had when those essays were assigned
- Your Favorites / Least Favorites
- Hobbies – from childhood to adult
- What You Wish You Had Known
- Recipes – your own or family favorites (Stick close for this one – I will give details in the next post!)
- Craft Directions – knitting, crochet, sewing, weaving – if you do it, tell them how, why you love it
In all honesty, this list is virtually endless. For each person writing their story, there could be thousands of subject matters. The point is, if you are having trouble getting started, choose one and start writing.
Supplies to Write your Story
You really need very little to write your story. A notebook and a pen are perfect. However, once you get started, you may find you need two, three or even four notebooks to get the full story down.
If you are like me, mild arthritis in my fingers and hands prevents me from over-indulging in the writing process. So, I use a computer and a flash drive for back up. Here are a few other things that may come in handy:
Photos – be sure to try and identify people, places and dates. You can add to your story with memories of all three.
Art Pencils – charcoal pencils are great when you want to add a sketch or diagram to what you are writing about. These images help to add depth to your story.
Colored Pencils / Highlighters – this will help to identify sections that are most important to you, or to highlight quotes, such as your favorite Bible verse or song lyrics.
A tape recorder (the kind used for dictation) or a phone that records – these are great for recording stories and memories offered by other people. By adding these, our story ends up having more depth.
Flash Drive – I do use these for backup. But I also use it to transfer my writing from my desktop computer to my laptop. This way, I can continue to write my story even if I am stuck in a waiting room, or when I take myself to lunch on errand day.
Publishing Your Story
You may feel that a few notebooks and/or a print out of a computer copy is enough when you write your story. And in some cases, it may be.
But if you want to take it to a new level, consider having it published. Self-publishing is a rising industry, and there are multiple places you can turn your Memoirs into a bound book.
Here are a couple of thoughts in that direction, but for more information and the details for any of these companies, please check their websites:
KDP Amazon – you can submit your book and cover art for no up-front costs. If they accept your submission, they will offer it for sale on their website. As a book is printed, they charge a fee. Part of that balance is paid to you as royalties for any book printed and sold. As the author, you can purchase books for their cost +.
Lulu – Lulu works in the same vein as KDP Amazon but distributes to a wider audience. This includes sellers such as Barnes & Noble and to libraries.
Book Baby – Book Baby has multiple ways you can get your book in print. They offer self-publishing packages for both print and e-books. You may also be able to get limited editions printed.
Encouragement to Write Your Story
You may still think that if you write your story you are wasting of time. But believe me, it isn’t. Writing your story not only will allow future generations to get to know you better, but it may also help you to learn who you are and who you really want to be.
It may awaken a long lost dream or goal. And writing is one of the ways mental health professionals use to help someone over a hurdle or obstacle in life.
Writing your story can be cathartic and help you to find a certain level of peace with a particularly difficult life experience. (If this is the reason you are writing your story, and your situation is too hard to consider, I do recommend you talk with a Mental Health Professional to help you through the process.)
Writing is beneficial. When you write your story, it becomes priceless. And if you think no one will want to read it, think again. Better yet, think of becoming ‘friends’ with your future generations. That will make it worth grabbing a pen and paper alone.
Take Writing your Story to the next level and create a Family Cookbook!
I so enjoyed this post, Julie. I love what your Dad said about you – it’s a real compliment! It was interesting to learn a little about your life. Also this is great advice, and I love that you shared resources to help everyone write their own story. I have always loved going through old papers and diaries from my family but it would have been amazing if some of my relatives had done this! Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul community – and also for sharing the party on your Favorite Blog Hops page! Take care.
I am so glad you enjoyed reading the post, April! I have a whole collection of stories I remember being shared, and am trying to get them all on paper
for future generations. I love being a part of the Hearth & Soul community. My only problem is finding enough time to read all of those great posts! 🙂