Do you have a story to tell?
Want to know how to preserve your story?
Why is telling stories important?
Everyone Has a Story to Tell (Yes, Even You!)
Want to know how to tell your story? Or perhaps you want to tell the story of your loved one’s life. If you’re wondering what will happen to all of your knowledge and life experiences (or theirs) after you are gone, story writing may be an option for you. Whatever interesting tidbits and snippets from your life you want to tell, others may also find it interesting and helpful to read.
Let’s start by putting an old theory to rest. You don’t have to be famous to tell a story. Lots of far-from-famous people have become memoir writers in order to pass along stories in their family. Some of them have even sold books and had movies made. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to storytelling and to learn how to tell your story. If it’s dynamic enough to sell books and make a movie, then you can tackle that later. For now, let’s focus on writing your story first!
Why It’s Important to Tell Your Story (or Someone Else’s)
You or your loved one have lived through a huge number of life experiences: ups, downs, celebrations, disappointments, conflict, successes, dramas, learning experiences, and so much more. For family and friends, learning about your struggles can help them to learn from your life lessons or even inspire them to accomplish more. Imagine if you were the main character of a folk tale that was passed along for many generations to come, that taught invaluable lessons about life. The power of storytelling helps your loved ones to relate or identify with you better… and even form an emotional connection to you.
You have some great stories and some great nuggets of wisdom. You just may need to dig around a bit to find them. It’s a little like an archeologist digging for fossils or a historian looking for treasure on a battlefield. Those precious items aren’t going to just jump out of the earth and grab your attention. (OK, maybe on a rare occasion they are simply sticking out of the ground.)
In the same way, you’ll need to do some digging around in your brain—and a whole lot of writing—before those pearls of wisdom jump out of the crowd and start screaming at you. We guarantee there are discoveries ahead of you… perhaps some you haven’t thought of yet or haven’t thought of in a long while. That’s what writing is for… to get to the juicy stuff… the meaningful stories and lessons that others can glean from and apply to their own lives too.
I started by simply telling groups my story – the funny parts, the tough parts, the triumphant parts. People loved it. Most people have scars too. Of course, they are not always as visible as mine – maybe they were scarred by abusive parents or dyslexia or some other invisible malady. But that doesn’t mean they are not real or that they can’t learn from someone who has overcome his own, more visible scars.
There’s another reason why it’s important to tell your story: healing. Putting your thoughts on paper (or on the computer screen, although writing by hand is always better) is a wonderful and therapeutic way to get through grief, trauma, illness, heartache, loss or any other difficult time or event.
So, whether you are writing about a loved one you have lost (or soon will) or writing about a difficult time in your life, we encourage you to keep at it. You can gain a better perspective on life in general, get bad or hurtful thoughts out of your brain and on paper or finally be able to put a traumatic event behind you. No matter the process, the result is a better, healthier you. So, get out your pen, pencil or keyboard and start writing!
Story Writing Is Empowering
Writing your life story or the story of a loved one can be an empowering experience. Story writing helps you to both define and share the narrative of your life and the lives of others. To start, you are not the only person in your life. You have encountered many people throughout many experiences in your life. So, all those stories will incorporate other people and their own lives as well.
Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom, sharing it is the first step to humanity.
In addition, writing your own story allows others to connect with you in a beautiful and new way. Perhaps you haven’t shared how you feel about certain people, things or events. By putting these things in writing, you can give friends and family members the opportunity to grow closer to you.
Sharing your story is also a great way to find your voice and reaffirm your values. You’ll probably discover things about yourself that you may not have known before, you may have forgotten about, or that have a renewed significance at this stage in your life. You have more to offer than you realize. So, don’t take your life experience for granted.
One of the most powerful things we can do is to help others when they are in need.
In order to do that, we need to be willing to share our knowledge, experiences, and the lessons we’ve learned.
How to Write Your Story
Need some tips and ideas for writing stories? To start, your main character is either you or a loved one. If you are writing about your own life, you may not need to do much research other than ensuring that you accurately remember events. In essence, you’d be writing an autobiography. If you are writing about a loved one’s life, you will need to interview other family members as well as friends who knew the person at different times in their life.
Determine your audience. Is it family, friends, community members? What will they be interested in? And how can you portray the story in a way that is meaningful to them? From important childhood memories to experiences as you get older, there should be something from all parts of your life that others can identify with.
In general, there have always been two ways to write a story: through organization or through inspiration. The route you choose will probably have more to do with your personality. If you thrive on structure, you may want to create an outline for your story. You can accomplish this on a few sheets of paper, or you may want to write phrases on index cards that can be moved around and rearranged until you feel the flow is right. Keep in mind that your story may still change after you begin writing. An outline simply provides a framework or a roadmap that will help to keep you moving forward.
The other style of writing is simply by inspiration, or ‘flying by the seat of your pants.’ If you have a freer personality, this writing style might engage you more. You can write whatever comes to mind and worry about the organizational details later.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Think of the story you are writing as a series of shorter stories or narratives. It may help you and seem less intimidating to break it into smaller chunks. And if you’re not sure which writing style is best for you, try them both. You’ll discover your comfort level rather quickly.
Story structure can vary, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules when selecting a structure for your life story. You may want to write your story chronologically (from birth to today) or you may want to choose a theme for your life story (e.g., growing up through the depression, how moving to the Midwest changed my life, etc.). You can also choose to break up your story into life periods (e.g., childhood, school, marriage, work life, retirement, etc.).
Deciding on story structure or theme may take a little advance thought. If you don’t know at first, don’t wait to start writing. The most important thing is to get to the writing. Often, story theme or structure will naturally rise to the surface as you are writing.
Where to Start Your Story
Deciding where to start your story is where you’ll find the greatest freedom. There are no rules here. Start at the beginning, start at the end, or start anywhere in between. The choice is truly yours. You’ve seen movies and read books all structured in these different ways. So, you have the same options open to you. Just be sure that your storytelling is clear enough so that your reader can follow your lead without confusion.
How to Get Better at Writing Stories
If you want to get better at writing a compelling story, there’s truly only one way to do it: good old-fashioned practice. Like anything else in life, it takes lots of writing to learn to write well. Lots of junk you’ll end up throwing out, and that’s OK. It’s just part of the process. No writer ever wrote a best seller right out of the gate. You may also want to consider joining a writing critique group that can help you hone your skills.
The bottom line is, the only story you need to be an expert at telling is your own story. That’s it. In the meantime, you may want to try your hand at different types of writing or reading. It doesn’t matter what you try. Just choose something that appeals to you.
- Children’s Books
- Young Adult (YA)
- Short Story
- Science fiction
- And more!
We can’t say that any particular type of writing is easier than another. In fact, each genre requires a special talent—if you want to be professionally published. But if you’re writing for your own entertainment, then don’t hold back. Just go for it and try. You just may be surprised.
What to Do When You Have Writer’s Block
If you find yourself stuck and not knowing what to write next, you may have writer’s block. Don’t worry. This problem occurs with everyone—even the most professional of writers and published authors as well. You may be unsure of how to write on a particular situation in your life or you may feel like your current topic isn’t fleshed out well enough. Either way, you may be in unfamiliar territory.
The good news is that there is a way out of writer’s block. However, the solution can vary from person to person. So, here are seven tips you can use to recover from writer’s block and continue your storytelling journey.
- Keep writing. Write anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense at that moment. You can always trash it or delete it. The point is that sometimes you need to write some junk before you get to the good stuff.
- Write about something else. Pick a different topic and write about it. It may help to get your mind off of your current topic and think of other personal experiences.
- Use a writing prompt. There are many books, journals, and online websites that offer a variety of writing prompts. This can help get your mind flowing again.
- Change your scenery. It may help to find a different writing environment. Maybe you work better sitting by a sunny window, being outside or working in a busy coffee shop. Find out what place works for you and what gets those neurons in your brain firing.
- Go for a walk. Get outside. Enjoy the fresh air. Listen to the birds and other activity going on in nature. Then return to your writing when you feel refreshed.
- Give it a rest. Take a break for a few hours or a day or two. You may be putting unnecessary stress on yourself. Writing your life story should be fun and enjoyable.
- Don’t expect perfection. This is probably the most important tip. Your story won’t be perfect. You don’t have to get every sentence out. It’s more important to tell your story without that internal editor looking over your shoulder. Just tell your story and write a lot, or as much as you can. Then you can worry about grammar and punctuation and get some professional help to pull it all together later.
Ways to Make Your Story Live On
Once your story is written, you’ll want to know how to share a lasting story. First, we recommend that you have someone familiar with the subject matter read through it. It can be helpful to get another perspective and to help fact check (in case you may have misremembered an event or period of time). Sometimes, several different people can have differing accounts of the same event or story. That’s normal because we do all see life from different points of view.
After you’ve had your story reviewed and fact checked by someone close, your next step is to have a professional editor review, proofread, and edit your document. You may not be the best writer (which is totally OK). That’s why a professional can add a polishing touch to your story so that the reader can enjoy their experience without being distracted by typos or grammar or punctuation errors. An editor will also be able to tell you if you need to add detail to a part of your story or if it might be even better if you rearranged a few parts.
Here are a few ways that you can help make your story last.
- Social / online. When your story is complete, you may want to look at a few different ways to help your story (or your loved one’s story) live on. You may want to create a website or a blog as a way to publish your story online and deliver it in a way that is accessible to all family members and/or to the public as well. Some have cleverly broken their life story up into a series of blog posts that deliver the story in short narratives. Don’t rule out social media either – it might be a good way to share with a particular group of people.
- Self-publish. You may want to get your book printed and bound to give to family members as gifts. It can be a fun process to work with a self-publisher, select a book cover, and get your galley copy. Just be sure to do your research, just as you would to select a doctor or any other professional. Some self-publishers do take advantage of others with large, up-front payments and a poor-quality end product. However, there are also many upstanding self-publishers with reasonable rates. Get some referrals first, if you can, or look at some of their published work.
- com. Don’t forget that Lastly is another great option to upload your personal photos and personal stories. You can create a time line of our life as well as a life map, family tree, and more. The greatest advantage of Lastly and other online resources for preserving your story is the opportunity to share your story with not only your family and friends but also the world (if you want).
We wish you a happy writing journey!