Everyone Has a Story — Make Yours Memorable

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer so people are prone to tell me this but it seems everyone wants to write a book.  Mostly they want to write their life story.  Maybe not all of it, but there are always a few memorable events — being high-jacked over Africa, surviving a childhood illness, catching the garage on fire — they want others to know about before too much time passes.

One reason, I believe, this yearning exists – especially in middle age — is because no one writes letters anymore.  Unless you keep a daily journal or diary, no one has a personal account of what they’ve been doing. Or anyone else they know.  Texting, emailing, Skyping and such leaves no footprint.  There is nothing you can hold in your hand ten, twenty years from now and say, “wow, I had completely forgotten about the Christmas grandma had too much eggnog and fell over in her plate!”

There’s also a void in storytelling among generations as families are dispersed across continents and reunions compete for our time.  Our resumes we can find on LinkedIn, our favorite books and music on Facebook.  But what most people want to be remembered for is something totally unique that ranks high on the OMG scale.

Here are a few tips on how to memorialize the juicy details of your life story or someone else’s who wants to be known for more than just a name in the Bible.

Capture the images – Identify three or four pivotal events in your life that shaped who you are today and describe them in three-word sentences.  Caught scarlet fever.  Killed black bear.  Flunked the bar.  This should not be hard – you’ve been telling these stories for years.

Write a few paragraphs about each — you don’t have to be Hemingway, no one is going to grade it.  Just let your thoughts flow on paper about what strikes you as particularly important.  Sketch out the location, who was around, time of year, etc.  It’s your story, your perspective.

Go back and color it in – make the listener/reader “feel” and “see” what you experienced.  Or, as Natalie Goldberg says, “tell me about the red bird in the green tree.”  Fill in some descriptors that evoke your senses so we’re in the scene with you — “soaked shoes” “cigar smoke” “burnt toast” “creaky floors”. 

Ask others to fill in the gaps – your memory of an event is unique; everyone else involved will remember it differently.  Ask them to tell you their recollection.  Memories are like watching a sunset spread over the water – they shimmer and dance and are in constant motion.  No one sees it the same way.

Ready.  Set. Record. – when you’ve captured the essence and importance of the (little) stories from your perspective get them down in some tangible, lasting way.  On paper in a journal for your kids.  On a video to play at the holidays.  In a DIY book with photos as a wedding gift.  In a shadow box to hang in the foyer.   In a scrapbook you rotate among your siblings.  In a series of black frames up the wall by the stairs.

Seldom does history repeat itself.  Everyone has a story.  Make yours memorable.  I guarantee you, everyone else in your life will be glad you did.

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