What’s your story?
When uttered by an adult, that phrase usually struck fear into the heart of young Beth, suggesting I’d made a wrong choice, a bad decision, or run my big mouth when I shouldn’t have. In fact, an iteration of that question asked by my 5th grade teacher in a moment of haste made me resent my writing and storytelling love enough to pack it away for many years, believing it to be a part of me I needed to silence and be ashamed of. (Another story for another day, friends.).
As an adult, it’s become the question that lights up and guides my life. Like my multi-artistic friend Kristi sees the world in paint colors and brush strokes, the world around me is one made of stories. Macroscopic, microscopic, single lines, words. There’s a story in every tiny thing and every fleeting moment around us if we take the time to relax into it and coax it out. To me, this is as true as the sun rising each morning.
Sometimes, though, the stories don’t come up over the horizon of their own free will. Sometimes it takes time for the string of words to bubble up, for the idea to take shape so that we can grasp the string of the balloon and pull it closer to examine and process into words and images. This is different than the energy of writer’s block in that a block is more a lack of desire toward pursuing words, rather than a patient waiting and knowing that the words will arrive in their own time.
In this receptive mode is where great writing begins. It all comes down to this: what stories do you want to tell? What whispers to you in those quiet moments, when the last thing on your mind is writing and words? When you’re caught up washing dishes or on the edge of falling asleep, when the chaos in your external world makes you wish you were somewhere else with a pencil or keyboard?
Stories we need to tell are already inside of us. They come from us, not to us. Seems like a technicality, a play on words, but it really isn’t. Learning to listen to your creative soul and leaning in directs your storytelling. This voice may have a foundation in what you read, what interests you, your life experiences, or something that seems completely random, but what always holds true is that it is seeking expansion. Stories want to be felt, thought, sensed (different from feeling, as it is a more direct sensation), shared in the world. Stories do not want to be seen as a random idea or two plucked from the sky, they want to be discovered as a result of the writer sinking into the flow of words around them. If writing becomes a chore, the story becomes just a product.
Questions for consideration as you begin to tell your story:
- What story is/stories are bubbling inside of you?
- What is it about writing that you love?
- Where do you want to explore: characters, the plot arc, the transformation? The combination of words and phrases that comprise exposition? The ability to put a string of actions together in a powerful way to reveal multiple aspects of a story? The macrocosm or microcosm? Exploring how every human battles the very same demons?
- What do you enjoy reading most and why?
- What stories have whispered to you lately?
- Where does your heart feel drawn?
Telling stories goes beyond the topical fiction and nonfiction umbrellas, though often this is the most logical place to begin. Hundreds of topics can pull at the pen, but if you listen, one will pull at your writer’s heart more strongly in the silence.
What stories are pulling at you in this moment? I’d love to hear in the comments, if you’d like to share!