If you think you have a story to tell, you’re right.
Everyone who has experienced fear, sadness, rage, love, loneliness, has a story worth telling. In many of my writing workshops, new writers doubt their talent. They also question their depth of experience- they think if they haven’t been held captive by marauding pirates or been stranded at the base of Mt. Everest, they really don’t have anything interesting to write about. In short, they question their right to write.
If you’re one of these people, I challenge you to change the way you think about storytelling. Storytelling is not a talent reserved for an elite few. Storytelling is a craft, like furniture building or cross-stitching. It’s something you care about and refine.
Don’t believe me? You tell stories all day long. “I went to the grocery store and this old man cut me off at the mandarin oranges.” or “A deer jumped right out in front of my car. I swerved all over the place!” Sometimes you tell stories to your kids or your grandchildren. You are a storyteller. Of course you are, you’re human and humans make really good storytellers.
The original human stories are in pictograph form, cave paintings that tell exciting stories of the hunt, often painting the hunter as brave and skillful with the spear. Story researchers believe we first told stories to create a balance for our failures.
I think we tell stories to connect our lives to other lives. Some stories offer examples of how to live morally. Bible stories are a great example of stories as lessons.
After our holiday dinner this year, we sat by the fireplace having coffee. My sister-in-law told us of the night she lost her little dog, an aged blind little teacup of a dog that wouldn’t last five minutes in the cold and dark on her own. We were riveted. We knew there was a happy ending, but we were riveted.
The rest of us chimed in with our own pet stories and, just as the ancients did, we passed an evening by the fire, telling stories.
So, go ahead. Write your story. It helps to think of a small thing; instead of My Life in 1500 Pages or Less, start with a crack in the door; the first time you rode your banana bike to the five and dime, for example. Buy yourself a notebook that you love. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I buy plain hardcover journals from Wal-Mart for $5.99. My pens are gel or rollerball, maybe 5.99 for four. They last forever.
Here are a few writing prompts to get you started:
- Write for ten minutes on the first thing that comes to mind when you think of swimming.
- Write for ten minutes about your grandmother’s shoes.
- Write for ten minutes about a baseball game you never went to.
- Write for ten minutes about a crush you had on someone in grade school.
- Write for ten minutes on a memory you have of a shower cap (or bathing cap).
- Write for ten minutes about a time when you were embarrassed.
- Write for ten minutes about something you know will never happen, but you wish to heck it would.