Telling our stories helps us to map the contours of our life

Telling our stories helps us to map the contours of our life

Telling our stories helps us to map the contours of our life

Life-writing is simply telling a story from our life. Sounds simple, but depending on how deep we dare to dig, the process of reflection can spark a ripple effect that can turn into tidal waves of emotion. When we write even a brief account of something we have experienced, we are catching our waves, creating a pattern, using our memory, and drawing on our ability to describe. Being a story-teller helps us find shape and meaning in our lives.

To encourage reflection, it is helpful to have guidance on subjects to consider for story-telling practice – usually, the topics are mostly positive, though it is helpful when one or two also give an opportunity to share and/or explore a negative or troubling experience. I think you will find that working through the following story suggestions is helpful in submerging yourself into your memory of times gone by and, if you happen to be in a group workshop, the benefits will multiply rapidly.

Paddle through your memory bank to explore and write about a time when you:
• helped another person
• realised what really matters in life
• overcame a major difficulty
• felt you belonged as part of a group or team
• knew what you wanted to do with your life
• were recognized for exhibiting a special talent or quality
• did something that you were proud of
• learned something important to you
• lived in a certain house or suburb
• “Look back, and now understand that …”

You may feel a little hesitant at first but keep paddling with your pen and you will be amazed at what appears on your page. With guidance from a writing mentor, within two or three weeks, even when you have not written before, you are likely to be feeling more confident and ready to engage and share your work with others.

Sessions are offered privately, in one-to-one sessions, or in group situations, where a positive reinforcement approach catches on quickly. One writer’s experience will release thoughts in others, that they, in turn, wish to share, and so there develops a mutual applauding and encouragement of each other’s piece of writing.

The venue is also important – a relaxed, supportive and familiar ambiance, preferably. Envisage cups of tea and coffee on the table, a plate of biscuits, notebooks and pens, laptops if you have them.

Often I find that the person who believes they have no story worth sharing emerges, as the weeks proceed, to shine as the most engaged and prolific story-teller. Mentoring helps you to focus on your story – sometimes I meet people who have felt compelled to think that their place in life exists only through servitude or in the shadow of others – but with encouragement through the narrative, they are able to connect with and strengthen their sense of self. It is most gratifying and exhilarating to witness the transition from timid to confident, from low self-esteem to feeling ‘yes, my story is worthwhile, I do have something to offer, I can do this, and this’. Because, truly, your story does count.

As your writing guide,  I am here to help you navigate the waves of your life, and if you have been afraid to venture forth from what seems safety in the harbor, to explore the delights of the ocean beyond, your pen can be your compass and your notebook your raft.  The waves that have seemed too big to ride before will increasingly give way to exploring new destinations, as you realize and believe that your life actually has been eventful, is worthwhile, and has possibilities.

Although not essential, group and face-to-face interaction is beneficial – occasionally, at least. Web-based support is possible and suits participants who lack mobility or who live out of town, or who feel not quite ready to be in a group situation. The Internet is a vital social networking tool, and Internet-based writing therapy is ideal if, for whatever reason, you prefer to write from home.

Photographs and poetry add further dimensions to life-writing and can be included in your sessions if desired. Oh, and at every age and stage, humor is an essential ingredient.
Whatever your situation, it’s time to navigate and find direction for yourself, or give direction to others, through writing your life story. I’m here to help. Get in touch today.

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