We have lived many
lifetimes and have so many stories. But sometimes stories elude us. We can’t
think of even one. No worries, here are five ways to launch your story.
Browse an album of
photographs from your past and memories will stream out. This method comes with
a warning, though: browsing may induce story overload. You’ll end up with so
many stories and won’t know which one to pick/where to start. (And hours can
Pre-you photos can
trigger intense curiosity about your ancestors, setting off a desire to reach out
to elder relatives, the few left – to unearth
who, what, when, and why.
Photos from school
may bring back pangs of emotion which you may or may not wish to revisit just
now. Photos of little children, especially yours, may bring a smile, or a tear,
Be forewarned that looking
through photo albums brings streams of stories. The trick is to pick the first
photo that speaks to you and shut the album.
With the photograph
in front of you, start writing or talking into your phone or mind mapping or
doodling. Pick the medium that will best help you organize your thoughts.
Answer the who, what, why and when, and maybe even throw in a “what if.”
I used to love
looking at all the stamps of the different countries in my passport. Traveling
through Europe by train was the best as you could get three stamps from three
different countries overnight – ever more
impressive as the total number of countries visited grew. (It was all about
quantity when I was young).
In 1978, I arrived
in Milan on the eve of Aldo Moro’s assassination. The then prime minister of
Italy was kidnapped and, when his ransom was not paid, he was executed.
The story I would
tell is about my arrogance as a young woman, insisting on travelling to Italy
by myself because I had a free pass, which is another story. Everyone I knew
advised me against it. That night, soldiers were in the streets, I heard gun
shots and shouts.
It was terrifying.
The next morning, still bigheaded, I visited the Duomo. A man pinched my bottom
– yes, at the largest church in Italy!
Pinching bottoms was not unusual then, but he seemed sinister, and I imagined
him pouncing and worse. I left on the first train out.
What stories does
your passport tell?
I love the “where
were you” game. You could think of any historical fact, like, where were you
when the Beatles sang “I want to hold your hand”? Armstrong landed on the moon?
Charles married Di? Pac-Man was a hit? (Did you play it? Where? And with whom?)
landed on the moon, my mother, my three siblings, and I, sat transfixed in
front of the TV. My jaw dropped.
My 13-year-old mind
tried to wrap around the idea that a white rocket travelled through all that darkness
to reach a pockmarked celestial object, which did not look anything like the
silver-white sphere in the sky at night.
To a 13-year-old living
in a third world nation in the 60s, everything on American television was
astounding. When I arrived in Los Angeles in the 80s, it was tricky to distinguish
Some major events
are more memorable than others. Pick the first one you think of and share what
you were doing then. What is your story from the time of that event?
Do you have a
memento sitting on your table or hanging on the wall next to you? Why do you
With whom was your first kiss? The occasion may or may not be significant today, but what can you tell about who he was, and more importantly, who you were? What were your thoughts then? And what do you think of those thoughts now?
What was your
Woodstock? The wildest, craziest thing you did? With whom?
In the 2010 movie Hot
Tub Time Machine John Cusack and Chevy Chase travel back to the 60s in a
hot tub. You too can do this. Any place that relaxes you can be transportive.
When you are totally relaxed, blissful memories float. Or blissful projections.
Those are stories too.
opposite can bring similar visions. When I’m at the dentist, and I’ve just been
given a shot in the gum, just before she removes my tooth, I imagine floating
in a calm, warm, salty sea.
I feel the waves
lapping on my arms, salt on my lips, the sun a yellow and red screen through my
closed eyelids. I remember my teenage years at the beach, alone, contemplating
God, or studying for an exam instead of attending school.
What do you see
when you are totally relaxed? When you drop your shoulders and let go, and your
body is soft and supple, as you breathe in and out, deep and slow, what story emerges?
Please share with our community!