Your Story

Ideas and inspiration to help you tell your own story

Stories begin with listening.

People often ask me for suggestions on how to start working on their own story or how to help a loved one tell theirs. The answer to this question is not “one size fits all.” Some are seeking to document family history or the witnessing of an important event, while others want to delve into spiritual memoir or explore self-awareness and personal growth. These are just some of the points in the broad spectrum of storytelling; there are many variations in between.

What’s your story?

No matter what type of story you are seeking to tell, there is one thread common to all: listening. Good stories begin with attentive, deep listening. Whether hearing your own voice and narrative, or that of another person, every story depends first on being heard.

My own interest leans to spiritual memoir so you will find more of those resources here than ones for archiving family history. This page is not intended to be an exhaustive inventory, but rather a starting place. I am adding to it a little bit at a time in hopes that something here might lead you to where you want to go.

Books

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg

Re-creating a Life: Learning How to Tell Our Most Life-Giving Story by Diane Millis

Tell it Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. Don’t be put off by the book’s subtitle if you are not looking to publish your work, but simply want to record it for yourself or family. I find the prompts at the end of each chapter extraordinarily useful and creative in helping us mine the details of our lives.

Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

WEB & APPS

STORYCORPS is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Their website has a multitude of stories to listen to for ideas on how you might like to approach your story. They also share tips on how to conduct an interview. You don’t have to share your story publicly on their site to take advantage of their resources. They also have a downloadable app for your mobile device that guides you through the interview process, gives you sample questions, and records the interview for you. https://storycorps.org/participate/

Author Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew maintains a website on Spiritual Memoir which includes a wealth of helpful information, along with writing exercises and links to classes and workshops. https://www.spiritualmemoir.com

When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.

 

Rachel Naomi Remen

We dropped our troubles into the lap of the storyteller and they turned into someone else’s.

 

Naomi Shihab Nye

Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.

 

ALICE WALKER

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Make some light.

 

Kate DiCamillo

At last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.

 

Audre Lorde

The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.

 

Emily Saliers

Everything that happens in your life happens because of the reality of interconnectedness.

 

Joan Halifax

We are each other’s magnitude and bond.

 

Gwendolyn Brooks

Whatever you carry out of your province, you carry out in your face.

 

Herte Müller

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even with our own lives.
 

Adrienne Rich

And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total?
 

Tillie Olsen

We do not inhabit a one-way context. We live in a relational context…To be a witness involves being really present to others, listening to others, developing the capacity to be in skillful relationship.
 

Willa Miller

Inside the river there is an unfinishable story, and you are somewhere in it.
 

Mary Oliver

To express oneself in art is to explore and even dissolve the edges of the ordinary; to penetrate resistance and tumble into mystery itself and be carried by it. It feels like a personal journey, but I believe it is the revelation of something deeply needed—in fact, something that belongs to all of us.
 

Ruth King

We benefit from the accompaniment of committed listeners who help us see both aspects of our story and ourselves we may otherwise miss.
 

Diane Millis

Because stories and identities are negotiated within communities, the re-writing and re-authoring of alternative stories can never be a solo endeavor.
 

Chené Swart

I had forgotten how much light there was in the world, till you gave it back to me.
 

Ursula K.Le Guin

I am a teller of stories and therefore an optimist, a believer in the ethical bend of the human heart, a believer in the mind’s disgust with fraud and its appetite for truth, a believer in the ferocity of beauty.
 

Toni Morrison

Whatever cross-section of life you choose to portray reveals the essence of the whole.

 

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

Tell your story

PHOTOGRAPH ON THIS PAGE | Forest Floor © 2020 Lucy Mathews Heegaard.