You Have a Story and the Story is You

I’ve been following a very interesting on-going dialogue within a writer’s group on Linkedin,  a social media website.  The question was asked by one of the participants if we writers felt that we should bring any of our childhood memories  into our writing.   My immediate reaction was, how is it possible not to?  We are our memories.  We are what we’ve lived through –  every person we’ve met, every decision we’ve made, every experience we’ve had, every good, bad and ugly act we’ve committed.  To try to keep all of that past, all of those memories, out of our writing would, I think, be impossible.   And why would we want to?  Each of us is a unique human being,  and yet we are Everyman.  We have our own special stories about our unique experiences, and yet our fears, hopes, dreams and needs are not unique.  It seems to me that authors  touch the hearts and minds of a lot more readers when we offer up part of ourselves through our characters.

That thought brings me to my real message here, which I try to incorporate into the conclusion of every presentation I give about my books.

The first part of that  message to my audiences is the importance  of  journaling on a fairly regular basis.  There’s  an easy seguey into that for me because the protagonists journal in both of my novels.  Why?  Because it helps them get in touch with their feelings, and that’s a healthy, positive thing for all of us to do.  Through journaling, my characters help resolve their conflicts.  In fact, in a recent study about that very point,  researchers found that not only does journaling help us resolve problems, work through our disappointments and fears and increase happiness when we write about good experiences, it also delays dementia.  Now how good is that?

So, journaling is important for our mental health.  If you don’t journal, try it now.  Simply write what’s on your mind.  And do it thoughtlessly.  Just get down what you’re feeling.  Let it all out.  Bask in the joy or fear or sorrow and then set it aside.  In a day or two or three, maybe, go back to what you wrote and see how you feel about that entry.  How far have you come in those days or that week? Do you feel better, worse, the same?  Have you progressed?  Has it awakened anything inside you?

The second part of the message is that there is no greater legacy you can leave behind with the people you love the most than your own personal story.  Each of our lives is unique.  Each of us is a special gift.  And your own very special story is a part of history and something that needs to be recorded and passed on.  Journaling now will help you create that story when you’re ready.  Just make sure that you begin it before it’s too late.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends say that they are so sorry that their parents’ or grandparents’ stories are lost forever because no one took the time to help write the memories. Or they had the time but just couldn’t get started.   I’ve also had older friends tell me that they would like to tell their stories to their families now, but their memories and facts about their lives have faded away.  It’s too late for them.  How sad.   I had the great privilege of helping my mother record her memories of her unique life for the rest of our family.  It was an incredible, eye-opening, cleansing  journey that we took together.  And it was one that would have been such a shame to have missed.

So get going.  Start today.  Record those emotions in a book that will become your Journal.  Acknowledge and accept what you are feeling.  It will be healthy for you.  Then once you have the hang of it, begin writing that story of yours that will begin coming together through your Journal.   You’ll be so glad, once you’ve started the process, and so will your children and grandchildren and their families.  Remember:  you are unique; you have a story to tell, and the story is you.

Let me know how you do: www.pennyslauer.com;  About.Me/pennySlauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aspire to Inspire Before You Expire”

I love this quote! A gentleman brought it up during a book discussion with me several years ago, and I hear it repeated occasionally. I wrote it down in my book of quotes, which I keep on my desk and refer to almost daily. For a long time, I misunderstood the words. I was thinking in too lofty terms and was missing the point.

I’m hearing more and more often too these days that we all need to live life to its fullest because we never know what tomorrow might bring. I couldn’t agree more and don’t need to write that one down.

To me, living life to its fullest is loving unconditionally, talking often to my wonderful family, learning something new every day, looking for challenges, taking risks, smiling at strangers, and being a good friend.
I also try to thank people who help make my life comfortable: grocery clerks, taxi drivers, service men and women, sales clerks, trash collectors. I got that inspiration from the Dali Lama in one of the many books he’s written. Before he leaves a hotel, he said, he makes a point to stop by and talk to the staff – particularly the housekeepers – to thank them for making his stay so comfortable. He asks his readers to consider how different their lives would be without all of the people who surround us who see to it that things get done – things that we don’t want to do and probably couldn’t. He’s inspirational. Among other things, he inspired me to try to make little differences in people’s lives before I get too old and crotchety.

Other people have said things like, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and that “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” How true. So…let’s get out there tomorrow and the day after and the day after that and live life to its fullest and, in doing so, be inspirational in lots of big and small ways.

Be the Gull!

One of my favorite books is Jonathon Livingston Seagull. In it, Jonathon risks family, friends, and his own safety to reach his full potential in order to realize his dream to fly higher, to see the world in a different perspective, and to encourage others to do the same. In my book, Skipping Stones, after reading about Jonathon, Josh, Ben and Katie vow to “Be the Gull!” and whisper their own individual dreams to each other outside their home on New Year’s Eve. The statement becomes their mantra and motivates them to begin their journey to break out of their lethargy and to escape from the violence they endure inside their home. They dare to dream, and their intent to pursue their goals encourages Jess to find her voice and to finally communicate to the people she loves and trusts how she and her children live.

The story of Jonathon is inspirational for all of us and reminds us that each of us is unique and has particular gifts to offer to the world. We have the right – the responsibility – to use our gifts and to pursue our dreams, however simple or lofty they might be. When that right is taken away, we are lost.