“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  – Maya Angelou

When I was in college I worked as a lifeguard at a small pool. One evening, I watched as a little girl, 18 months old at most, jumped from the wall into her father’s arms. They did this over and over, her giggles louder each time. And then he looked away, distracted by something else in the pool, and she jumped, and she went under.

He heard the splash, whipped around and got her within seconds. Then he glared at me over her sputtering head. Why? Because I hadn’t even moved. Not even a flinch.

This is a five-second story from 25 years ago. Everything worked out fine, and it seems on the surface to be inconsequential. Yet it has stayed with me. I have dug into the reasons why I might not have moved, such as physical responses to fear, the father I was recently estranged from, the irresponsibilities of my 20s.

I have told this story live and I have written about it.  The more I tell this story, the more I understand it…and myself. I have written about it this story and I’ve told it live.  The more I tell this story, the more I understand it…and myself at the time. People have received this story and held space for my emotions around it. Through this experience, the story has transformed and I have been able to let go of the pain I was holding. Through sharing this small story, I have been transformed.

One of the things I hear from writers – or those who long to be – is that they don’t know what to write about. They worry that there is just one good idea, one perfect story.

I think that intellectually we all know that this isn’t true. There are as many stories as there are molecules of air. So then why do we fixate on finding the “right” idea for a story?

Hello again, fear.

When we sit down to write, fear (in the form of our inner critic) dismiss some stories as unimportant. Uninterestesting. Uninspired. Unworthy. 

Picture yourself in front of your computer, waiting for inspiration to strike. A memory steps into the light and you start to sweep it away.

Stop. Keep the light on it. Widen the light to the moments or years before it, or the ones that came after.

Even the smallest stories from our lives, the most everyday, mundane stories, hold power to illustrate the transformation that makes a story impactful.

Action Steps to Capture Small Moment Memories

  1. Set the timer for 10 minutes. In a journal or on scratch paper, start with “I remember.” Each time you run out of things to say, start again with “I remember.”
  2. Set the timer for 10 minutes. This time, use the prompt “I don’t remember.”
  3. Write thesis statements for various areas of your life. For example, “I have never been good at managing money.” or “If given a choice, I will always choose dessert.” Then write a list of moments that support that thesis.
  4. You know that story that you tell over and over to anyone who will listen? Write it down.
  5. You know that story you’ve never told anyone? Write it down.

Here’s the thing I want to leave you with: every story is important. Will you publish or even share all of them? No. But do they all hold power to illustrate a transformation that might resonate with just one other person?

Yes. Because your stories matter.

Free Workshop!

I’m thrilled to announce a new opportunity for you to dig into one of your true stories. 6 Steps to an {Extra}Ordinary Story is a free workshop for memoirists, bloggers, storytellers and family legacy writers. Learn and apply six strategies that will make your true story engaging, impactful, and entertaining.

Click here to learn more! >

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