The power of story
We are hard-wired to tell stories.
... those long dark nights when we sat around the warmth and safety of a fire and shared stories about our day: what we did, what we hunted and gathered, what we saw - and of course all of those tales would've had a good dose of imagination thrown in. That animal we speared for dinner became far larger than it actually was, the trip to gather water from a nearby stream became fraught with tension because we lost our way and couldn't get back for ages (when actually we probably just took some time out to sit by the water and dream for a bit), and then there are the stories we tell about others, embellishing our own with those day to day interactions and relationships.
What wonderful stories we had the privilege of sharing at my recent Introduction to Memoir Workshop last weekend. A gathering of women with ideas and projects to describe, eager to commit their stories to the written word.
The writing of memoir involves the telling of truth, your story or journey, what happened during a time of change or transformation in your life. It can take courage to tell those stories, and we tell them when we are ready.
That can take a while. My Mom died in 2010 and it has only been within the last two or three years that I have started the writing of my memoir about her. In contrast, my memoir about my first year after a breast cancer diagnosis was written and published within three years of that fateful day when I found out I had cancer.
Good strong stories customarily follow a narrative arc. A very simplistic description of the arc is the beginning where we meet the main characters and the scene is set (Act 1), the conflict/action/crisis follows (Act 2) and then the resolution ends the story (Act 3), where we find out what eventuated, the conclusion of our story. For example, earlier I mentioned going to the stream for water. That is Act 1 where we meet the person, the scene is set. Act 2 is all the conflict - what happens to challenge the mission of getting water? Our character falls down a hole, or is confronted by a wild animal, or indeed falls in the stream and floats away. Act 3 is how our character made it back to camp. How did they manage? What did they do? What have they learned from the experience?
Sometimes we are still living the story we want to write about. There is no resolution yet. We don't know what the end will be. Should that stop you from writing your story? No, I don't think so. You'll probably have the first two parts of your arc, and some memoirs do end with nothing being resolved.
Whatever your story and wherever you are in it, tell it.
Write it honestly and truthfully, because therein lies the power.
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