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.
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.
Who I Was
Growing up, I often heard the phrase, “he/she marches to the beat of a different drummer”. It simply meant that their outlook on life wasn’t exactly the norm. My dad modified that when it came to me. “Julie doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drummer. She dances to the tune of an entirely different band.”
In other words, my dad saw my creative streak. He recognized my curiosity, and knew I viewed the world through a different lens. In spite of how much my outlook frustrated him some days, more times than not Daddy would encourage me.
It was because of him and his encouragement that I started writing seriously in the first place.
The Stories I Heard
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 45 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.)
There was More to that Story…
I knew something BIG was about to be revealed. 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.
Now I am Paying 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 straight-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!)
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.
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. Those stories don’t have to be yours, but can be what someone else remembers about that time. The important part is that you put the story on paper.
What to Write 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, here is a list of some of the things you can write about:
- 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 matter. The point is, if you are having trouble getting started, choose one and start writing.
Supplies to Write your Story
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. 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 writing your story is a waste 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, I do recommend you talk with a MHP to help you through the process.)
Writing is beneficial. Writing your story 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!