Every day we tell stories. Sometimes we tell the same stories over and over again–to our friends, people we meet at parties, complete strangers. More often than not, these stories are based upon our life experiences.
As writers, we must discern if our life experiences actually provide the basis for stories worth telling. How do we do this? We could begin by taking a marketing approach and asking if a market exists for the story. Does anyone want to hear it? Does it add value to a large group of people’s lives? Does it solve a problem or answer a question many people have? If you can answer “yes” to any or all of these questions, you probably have a story worth telling.
On a deeper, more personal and more spiritual level, you must look at your life experiences and decide if they have meaning. Are they inspiring? Do they have a message? Will they teach others something or move them to take action or to change in some important manner?
I recently taught a writing class in a Federal medium security prison. The class of 71 male inmates all had life experiences they wanted to write about. I told them to look at their stories or experiences–the ones they liked to talk about and the ones they kept secret–as sacred texts. I asked them to begin reading and writing about their lives like most religious traditions read the Old Testament. We read the stories of the people in that sacred text over and over again trying to figure out what they mean to us–what the experiences of those imperfect people are supposed to teach us. And in many traditions we read the stories on four levels:
- secret or hidden
I asked them to do the same. To look at the experiences on those levels, and to then write about them on those levels, to offer up the sacred texts of their lives. In that way, their life experiences would, indeed, become stories worth telling–stories with symbols and lessons and inspirational messages.
I suggest you do the same. Read your life like a sacred text. Then write your sacred text–and share it.
In the Jewish tradition we have a teaching: There’s always someone in the audience who is supposed to hear your story. In the reverse, when you hear a story, it’s meant just for you. So, if you have a story to tell, you need to tell it. It doesn’t really matter if you have a large market or not. Touching that one person and making a difference in that one life is what really matters.
So tell me, do you have life experiences that are stories worth telling?
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