Tuesday, 3 March 2015

How to tell your story

'How to tell your story' is a dilemma on my mind. Telling the little stories is relatively easy. Our lives our made up of mini stories, the memories we tell ourselves or tell others. These often get unwittingly changed in the telling or re-interpreted by the hearers. It's telling the big story of a person's life that is harder. Anyone who has had to deliver a tribute at a funeral will know the difficulties of deciding what to include or what to leave out.

One of the things I planned to do on retirement was to write my memoirs, not that I am famous or important, or that my life is anything other than ordinary. I got distracted from that task by family history research, which has unexpectedly affected how I see who I am. I have written up some of this. Writing my own life story could benefit me in making sense of my life and also perhaps benefit any of my descendants who are interested in family history, or what life was like when I was young. Should I ever develop dementia, it could help others to remind me of my story or to understood me if I no longer know who I am.

Reader - the writing of the story has not yet started. Ideas for it keep rumbling around my head. I have a miscellaneous collection of papers stored in a filing cabinet under 'memoirs' in case any of it comes in handy for reference. Yes my story will include many little stories. What will the totality of my memoirs look like, should I ever write them? What is the bigger story? Do I even know what it is? How will I discover it? How will I tell it in a way that might make it worthwhile for someone else to read?

One of my recent thoughts is that to tell someone's story you need first to hear it, to really hear it. That must apply to any honest attempt to tell one's own life story. A prerequisite is to listen to it with an open rather than a closed heart and mind. This thought was triggered by something I came across on the InwardOutward blog. It is a quote by Frederick Buechner from his book 'Now and Then'. I think taking this advice may help me to see how to work on my story.
"No matter who you are, no matter how eloquent or otherwise, if you tell your own story with sufficient candor and concreteness, it will be an interesting story and in some sense a universal story…. We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit. But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear God, God is indeed speaking to us."
If you have or are writing your memoirs I would be most grateful for any advice you can give. 

Image Credit: Pixaby, CCO License 

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