We’re all storytellers. I know I am. And so are you. YES, YOU. (Haven’t you ever told a story? …Yes; that’s what I thought.) See? You’re a storyteller! I hereby give you permission to go ahead ‘n put that on your résumé.
What you do with all those stories you go around telling (or keeping bottled up inside) is up to you. But I suggest writing them down. Because when we weave hundreds of our own tales and anecdotes together into one comprehensive log, it becomes something bigger. Real-life magic.
But getting to that part is h-a-r-d.
Sitting down to write a big ol’ memoir can be terribly intimidating (and I should know—because I keep trying to do it). I even hesitate to use the word “memoir” here because the word itself sounds so snazzy and pretentious, and therefore off-putting for many people. For me, though, writing life stories generates the same feeling I get with all my tales—personal or fiction. Thus, I’ve simply succumbed to that familiar panicked “Where on Earth do I start?” feeling, knowing that once I DO begin the narrative, the rickety writing wheels start spinning faster and more smoothly.
It’s not easy, but there are so many tools that can help. Tons of free writing prompts are available on the internet; Google or Pinterest will lead you to thousands of them. But I find that books like this one from Piccadilly Inc. (see photo—and nope, this isn’t a sponsored post, I just like the product) are so helpful. Each page features a one-sentence writing prompt or question about your life (i.e., “Write about a time you fell off a bicycle” or “Tell us about the neighbors across the street and two houses down to the right“), followed by college-ruled lines for you to write your response. I typically find that one page isn’t enough, so I end up using a separate journal instead (or paper-clipping additional pages into the book, though that can get messy).
Because of a writing prompt asking me about cars I “knew” when I was young, I recently wrote a story about a rusty old car my big sister briefly owned when she was in high school. I’d forgotten all about that beat-up, bright yellow hooptie, but once I was prompted with the guided journal direction, I took off! My pencil flew down the page, writing this incredible coming-of-age story from my own life that I’d forgotten over two decades. But it came back to me. And it all started with remembering that car’s very existence, and that time my sister drove two friends and I to the theater in it.
You guys, I’m tellin’ ya: guided journaling unlocks soooo many surprises just waiting in the nooks ‘n crannies of our noggins!
Guided journals are perfect for beginning and coaxing out your life story—or your parents’ or grandparents’— as the questions tend to trigger and unlock memories from years ago that we’ve forgotten. (Sometimes this can be frightening, if you’d rather forget some events or entire eras… But I often find that it’s a joyful blast from the past!)
Have you ever tried guided journaling or using writing prompts? If so, what sorts of goodies did you remember? And if not,give it a shot! After all, a story IS within you. You just have to reach around in there and find it.