Like many creative nonfiction writers, I find myself falling back on the same stories over and over, trying to squeeze more juice out of them.

Stories about my social anxiety.

Stories about my estrangement from my father.

Stories about my pregnancy and pregnancy losses.

Stories about parenting.

Stories from my teaching career.

These are the stories whose themes have shaped the course of my life and have, in many ways, brought me to where I find myself today.

And there’s nothing wrong with exploring them.

But as I sit here in my mid-40s, I’m realizing that there is so much more than that in my history.

Small stories have brought me here as much as the big ones. Ridiculously funny stories have shaped my life as much as the traumatic ones. And if I am going to share my stories, I owe it to myself, at least, to tap into all of them.

So I numbered a page 1-100 and made myself come up with one hundred stories.

The first few were easy, because they are the stories I fall back on over and over.

  1. I had a miscarriage.
  2. I had a stillborn daughter.
  1. The last time I spoke to Dad was a month before my wedding.
  2. He didn’t come to the wedding.

The next few were also quick, because I’ve already written and/or told live stories about them:

  1. I was on a jury that found a man guilty of murder.
  2. I had several fender benders, all my fault, before the age of 20.

The exercise quickly became painful, almost excruciating. My inner critic came alive, telling me that all of these stories are stupid, and that I’ve never done anything worth telling about.

  1. I used to lip-sync pop songs for hours in my bedroom.
  2. Our dog was run over when I was 16.
  3. I didn’t make the cheerleading squad.

I had to ask my husband for help, because panic set in when I couldn’t remember anything that had happened during the 20 years we’ve spent together.

  1. I got a tattoo when I was 45. It’s our daughter’s handwriting.
  2. Our minister didn’t bring the personal vows we’d labored over to the wedding ceremony, so we had to rewrite them in a rush on the banquet permit from our reception.
  3. Mark filled my cupboards with groceries when I was a poor grad student. We’d been dating a month.

Some illustrated themes which I may or may not have known about myself.

  1. I told 3 boys “no” when they asked me to senior prom, and ended up going with a last resort date who got drunk and passed out midway through the night.
  2. When P___ kissed another girl while we were dating, I was angry but also relieved.
  3. I turned down a boy from another school when he asked me to his school dance because I liked his friend. I did not go to that dance.

Some were individual stories that could be woven together to make larger ones.

  1. I was a resident assistant on a floor of freshman boys.
  2. They bought me beer for Christmas and asked me not to write them up for it.
  3. One of them tried to cut himself with a large hunting knife after a night of drinking.

This list of 100 stories I’ve created is nowhere near exhaustive, and I will continue to live new stories every single day.

I could create another one tomorrow with all new stories.

The gift of this activity is in the revelations.

  • Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve experienced could be a story.
  • Bringing stories into the light – whether major life events or minor anecdotes – can give you an opportunity for reflection and growth.
  • If you can treat your stories with tenderness and compassion, like a tiny flower bud or a newborn infant, you can begin to treat yourself the same.

Click here for a free printable worksheet where you can generate your own 100 Stories.

It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it.

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