Before I launch into this post, I would like to share a preview of what I am working on for next Saturday’s post. Next week I will be sharing the story of an inspiring athlete who recently took a leap of faith and made some changes in her life. I will share how her life changes are going and learn more about her motivational athletic journey.
The subject of today’s post might be a bit premature, but the timing is also perfect. Eight weeks ago, I set out on an ambitious personal writing project, that I titled, 50 Life Stories. At the start of my writing journey, my goal was to write fifty personal stories that represent standout events or memories from my past. I had some idea of the subject of a few stories, but I also wanted the stories to show up organically. I wanted one story to plant the seed for the next story, and so on. I have stayed committed to the organic flow of story ideas and have been surprised by the memories and details that have bubbled up in my brain. My initial writing plan was to write three to four stories a week. I am close to that pace, at about three stories per week. My plan is to finish writing my fiftieth story before the week of Thanksgiving, so that I can press pause that week, before I begin the next phase of my writing process. Meeting my deadline is important to me. Going deep into reflection and the writing process is more important. I am intent on giving each story the attention it deserves. This is not a rush to put words on the page, this is about remembering, revisiting, reliving, and relinquishing. With some hesitation as to whether I could sit still long enough to craft fifty thoughtful, authentic, and honest stories, I began my journey. I had no idea just how transforming the experience would be for me – I just felt it was something I needed to do.
At the writing of this post, I am three stories shy of my halfway point (hence the “premature” comment). I have written twenty-two stories (53 Pages, and 29,379 words) and I have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined possible at the beginning of this journey. I have many more stories to write, however, almost reaching the halfway mark is a monumental (personal) accomplishment and once I reach Story #25, I know I will be fired up to finish. The next “story” update will be two weeks from now and I expect to be well into my 35th story by then.
I am not able to work on my 50 Life Stories every day, but when I do have time to write, I have found a few pre-writing steps and environment preferences that are helpful to the writing process.
I quiet the chatter in my mind by:
- meditating for at least ten minutes
- writing my three pages (The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron)
- having at least one hour, preferably two, before I commit to working on a story, because once I begin writing, I can quickly get lost in the story and lose track of time (ideally).
- having a quiet writing environment, so that I can allow my mind to fully revisit and relive memories without the distraction of my phone or music (birds chirping outside is OK).
- to mentally put myself in that moment of time and write the details as quickly as they unfold, paying close attention to recording sensory memories.
- to spend more time allowing and creating rather than editing and revising (stopping too often to edit interrupts the creative process).
- to highlight points of uncertainty, such as specific dates, that can be researched later.
- to write a working title for each story.
After finishing a story:
- I read through the story and spend time revising, with more to come after completing my 50th story.
- I print that story and read it aloud, marking or adding as I go (I’ve also read several stories to my husband).
- I then staple it and put it in a folder.
- I write the first few lines of the next story, to preserve that constant stream of one-story-idea-leading-to-the-next-story-idea.
- Then, I prepare for the next story, repeating the process again (usually the following day, or soon after).
- I recognize how much I have starved my self-expression year after year, and how freeing it has been to release creative thoughts.
- I feel empowered by giving myself permission to put my creative goals first, rather than last, which usually means not at all.
- Working past the burden of “I don’t want to go there,” with several life experiences, I now have new perspectives and insights about life events, that would not have happened if I had not given myself the time to fully revisit those moments.
- Writing toward the challenges, instead of running from them, has also allowed me to release limiting beliefs and baggage (some I wasn’t even aware, before starting a story).
- Connecting story after story, I have discovered themes, patterns, and habits; some of those have been helpful and others have not. With a new awareness, I can work on those that do not serve me.
- Taking the time to quiet my mind and write my stories has given my mind the opportunity to deliver cherished moments – moments I have not thought about, in some cases, for over forty-five years.
- In writing my stories, I will have given my daughter the gift of “my stories,” which are also her stories (whether she was there or not). I wish I had the same from my deceased father.
- My husband, as my only audience at this time, has learned more about me than he (or I) knew two months ago (and we’ve been together since January of 1990!).
- Every story is a new opportunity to gain more insight about myself. I have twenty-eight more stories to go. I am excited and open to the possibilities.
Write Your Story!
My 50 Life Stories project has changed me in ways I could not have imagined two months ago, and I know I have more discoveries to make. At this time, I am not sure what will happen after my fiftieth story is written and my revisions are complete. That is OK. I am more concerned about fully embracing the process of reliving and writing, rather than the what will happen next question. Sometimes that reliving and writing brings me laughter and joy and sometimes it brings me tears and sadness. I welcome it all, because I know through each emotion I am learning, growing, and discovering more about myself and that is life changing.
I encourage you to take the time to relive and write your stories. Maybe you join me in writing in fifty stories, or maybe you write five stories. The number of stories you write is less important than the personal transformation you might go through between writing the first word of your first story and the last word of your last word story. I suppose the “last word” doesn’t happen until we take our final breath, because as long as we are living, we have stories to tell. Tell yours!
Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.