I started creating stories when I was in 6th grade; I was a playwright. My teacher, Miss Thomas encouraged me and even allowed my ‘drama club’ to perform those plays. Miss Thomas would have been fired if it were 2022; our class scores would have suffered on the end-of-grade testing that wouldn’t include items on the meaning of my plays. She remains one of my favorite teachers because she nurtured my dreams, she helped me to start writing my Life Story.
Over the years, I progressed from crafting plays to poems, short stories, a novella, and the first six chapters of a novel. During the last decade, I’ve focused on writing and publishing essays and a memoir. Now, people come to me and say, “Here’s an idea for you, Connie” and then they continue with their idea of an interesting story. I appreciate their confidence that I could craft something interesting. Sometimes, I use part of their suggestion, or it helps spin me off into a different direction, a new idea. Other times, I tell them, “You feel passionate about that. It’s your story to tell.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Life Story lately–since I’ll turn a year older on Tuesday. It’s hard to believe that at almost sixty-seven, I’ve already written so many chapters and I’m past the halfway mark in my book. As I consider the next chapter, it reminds me of the things that authors consider when they’re deciding what to write. Seems like those things are instructive whether you’re writing a work of fiction or living out your life as the author of that journey.
Authors are intentional about the genre they choose to work in; do they want to delve into fictional stories that are part based on reality and part imagination?; are they more interested in focusing on varying human perspectives?; do they prefer writing about organized crime or long lost love? Whatever choice they make will place them in their created world for as long as it takes to complete that story.
Likewise, in our Life Story, we have to be intentional about what kind of world we choose to inhabit. At this point in my life, baby boomer looking at a decreasing expanse ahead, what world do I choose to inhabit? What kind of story do I want to create now? It’s different from the ones I wrote in the earlier chapters. With the perspective of a senior, knowing that I won’t have time for all that I’ve dreamed of, what’s the most important things to me now?
When we’re young, our parents and close family members, then our teachers and classmates and the community around us– influence greatly the stories that we write. We have limited understanding of ourselves as unique individuals. Our view of who we are is shaped by the perceptions put on us by others.
But hopefully, as we grow into adulthood, and as we eventually learn to let go of the expectations of others, we come to realize our unique voice that has its particular tone and cadence. We see our point of view that has evolved out of our upbringing, life experience, our personality. As our confidence grows, we see our style show through and we feel comfortable owning that style. All these things help us to write the story of our lives in a unique way that is satisfying because it’s true. And if we had readers, they’d know they’re reading a favorite author’s work because they hear her authentic voice.
As an author progresses in writing the story, they have to decide on how it will end. At the close of the book, will everything be tied up neatly with a happy ending? Will there be more questions than answers, leaving the brain with those lasting irritants that can’t be released, problems that must be solved that stay with the reader? Many authors say they don’t know how their fictional works will end because the characters write themselves, sometimes fooling the author.
In life, we don’t know how our story will end. What things will be left unanswered? Will it be a happy ending? Will it be filled with surprise twists and turns right up to the final page? No one knows. But what we can know, is that we’ve taken control of writing the story that we desire, the story that is our story, the one we own.
I wish you the best as you take control of your narrative, as you write Your Own Life Story.