Going beyond those empty words for the sake of a real story.
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
— Sue Monk Kidd
Telling a story is a remarkable thing. It’s almost mystical the way words, images, and sounds come together and envoke viewers of all kinds to respond. The responses may vary, but they exist nonetheless.
One of the most important elements of telling a story lies in its authenticity — how real the story is as it relates to the storyteller. This, of course, translates to the readers because it is something they can relate to without someone forcing it on them.
But no one putting pen to paper will effectively reach anyone without being true to themselves. It is the only way to tell a story, any story, about anything.
Your Life Is a Story
We don’t often realize this, but our lives exist to present a narrative that is unique in and of themselves. They’re not meant to line up with everyone else’s because they make us who we are, as distinguishable as our fingerprints.
For most of us, though, we care a lot more about other people’s legend than our own. We would rather pay attention to their tales than to acknowledge the factors that have made us who we are today.
We ignore the deeper story — our story.
I want you to think about what has happened to you in your life — every experience, both good and bad. They matter in the overall scheme of things. And it is each piece that makes the narrative stand out.
For the most part, we settle with writing those annoying and seemingly insignificant moments off as meaningless. “They happened in the past, so why would I care about them now?” we think.
Because they have made (and are making) you who you are today, with all the quirks included. That’s a good thing when you sit and ponder on it. Maybe you haven’t considered it. Perhaps you’ve heard it before but didn’t care.
Well, you should.
I’ve always loved watching stories on tv and reading them in books. So it was no odd thing when I decided to tell my own. Putting the words together would be rather simple as an observer. How hard could it be?
At first, I wasn’t paying much attention to other creators around me. They were terrific writers and even better storytellers. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’m not them, and they aren’t me.
Before that reality took hold of me, I struggled with looking around at what everyone else was doing and mimicking their every move.
See, I had fallen short (well short) of telling my own story. I was focusing on how I could be just a little more like other creatives, ignoring myself completely.
The result was me shutting myself out from the rest of the world. I became a hermit, an anti-social loner who didn’t want to go out because I thought it would be more of a distraction than anything else.
This is what happens when you refuse to live.
Don’t Be Afraid to Live
I was a homeschool kid after 2nd grade. My parents pulled my twin brother and me out of public school to teach us the values they didn’t believe we were getting at the time.
Eventually, we ended up back in public school in the 8th grade after begging them to let us play basketball for the team. The coach loved us, and it would be a foolish thing to allow that kind of an opportunity to slip away. So they didn’t.
But those six years in between taught me something. I’d learned to be afraid of living outside of my comfort zone. The closed-in environment turned me into a skeptic.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to stay in my little bubble.
I’d developed a sense of social anxiety that I never had before. It didn’t take away from my introverted self. Instead, it fed it steroids. It decreased my desire to socialize with other human beings.
This was clear as day when I walked through the 8th-grade halls of my middle school. The faces were everywhere, and I didn’t know where to place my eyes. Sweat would pour as people passed by, brushing against me.
After a while, I got back into a social flow. But it took work. I had to get used to being in that sort of environment again; just like it was in 2nd grade.
The world was my canvas then. But I’d forgotten how mysterious that must have been.
We are like this when we refuse to let ourselves live the lives we were designed to live. We neglect the experiences that shape us, as chaotic as they may seem.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not blaming my parents for what happened back then. I decided to disassociate myself with people. That choice was on me.
The only thing worth my attention was a video game console. That made it possible for me to let years pass without growth in any aspect of life as I sat in solitude.
We Need Interaction
One of the most significant problems I ran into was not being able to interact with others. That crippled me in more ways than one. Not only was my social skills the equivalent of an outdated iPhone, but my perception of life changed too.
It’s true: some people suck. But whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we need them in our lives.
We need the conversations, the small talk. We need people to share our stories with who will respond, appreciate, relate to, and even criticize.
When I walked away from these facets of life, my life was boring. I couldn’t reflect on much of anything because I wasn’t doing anything. My life was a bowl of soggy cereal to me. There was no crunch at all.
But when I chose to shake myself loose from the state of self-pity and isolation, I found joy again — the pleasure I had when I was a little kid. My eyes were wide open, and my feet would run toward the hint of adventure.
And it was there where I found my story.
You see, this is what helps people. The experiences we have, the people we meet, the lessons we learn, the trials we face — all these points are most effective when we choose to recognize them.
Writing without the intent to tell a story is just slapping words on an empty canvas. But words churning from a life that is lived in the open produces a story. That is, when you lose the fear of sharing it.
Your gifts translate, in one way or another, into a story. Let it be your own. Let it be from your own life experiences that have shaped you.
Go and live. Then let your words flow from that place. It doesn’t matter where or who you are; these steps will resonate because you were willing to step outside of your comfort zone into a realm that satisfies you.