Every month as Story Door, the local monthly storytelling night draws closer, I begin to trawl my memory with theme in mind, to find a moment from my life to carve into a story.
It is a process I know well now. I scan my history, dwell in the past, search through a long list I have kept of story ideas, and explore a couple of possibilities.
In this early stage I am usually just working in my head. Walking the dog becomes a musing on story. I think about what each potential story means, its message and values. Then I ponder the dramatic arc, the climactic moment. I think about the rising tensions and how to build them, and how the story fits with the theme.
And I run each one through my ‘thrill-o-metre’: Do I get excited at the thought of working with this memory and sharing this story? And by excitement I don’t mean is the story is funny or exciting, far from it. I mean does the thought of sharing this event in a narrative form, with the meaning it had then, and the meaning I give it now, give me a buzz?
Often this manifests as a sort of intuitive ‘call’ from the story, to be told, which turns out to be a sweet combination of love, message and drama.
Once I have chosen a story, I start in ernest reliving the events, tossing the memories around my mind as I go about my day, setting aside time to write it out, usually in several sittings, or if I’m busy I just start recording on my phone.
And two funny things happen that journal writers, bloggers and memoirists the world over also experience.
Firstly as I dwell in the past, in the emotions, senses and images of the circumstances, I begin to remember more and more details, things I had completely forgotten.
Secondly I begin to make more meaning out of these events, I begin to have realisations, new understandings and a deeper connection to my younger self, the other people in the story and my life in general.
It is like finding a precious stone in its raw state and spending time with it, often hours, tumbling and polishing it until it glows, and you have a new and beautiful gift you can show and share with others.
It is nothing short of giving your life new meaning. And with the next step, the oral sharing of your story, there is another layer to the process that I will leave for another blog.
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