WHY STORIES ABOUT OUR LIVES MATTER
Since the beginning of time, humans have used to story to learn. As we gathered around ancient campfires knowledge was shared from one group to another, one person to another, through story. But stories are not just told to us by others or to others—we also tell them to ourselves.
Whenever we experience something, we have the present time experience of it. We stub our toes, we get a new job, we lose a relationship, we have a great vacation. After this experience is over in present time, it lives on in our mind in the form of a story. We retell these events to ourselves and others. In the retelling and re-examining, the meaning or the moral of the experience/story comes to life. These morals then become part of the lens through which we view our world.
BECOMING THE AUTHOR INSTEAD OF THE CHARACTER
The way to fully understand how these stories operate in our lives is to explore and dissect them the same way you would in a literature class or a writing workshop. By analyzing the stories we tell ourselves, we come to see how those past events shape the way we view our world and determine our reality. In analyzing these stories, we become not just a storyteller—repeating a story we learned from someone or something else—but we become the author of our own stories. We can change and shape the way we view both the past and our futures by revising these old stories.
A SMALL EXAMPLE
Let’s take a simplistic example. You are walking down a street and step in a deep puddle soaking your shoes. You can tell yourself several things about this event.
You could say:
- This always happens to me.
- My day is ruined.
- People just don’t take care of things.
- Wow, I am glad I didn’t twist an ankle.
- The day can only get better from here.
- I’m going to call someone about that puddle so no one else gets hurt.
Imagine this scenario. Try on the different reactions. How would the story you tell yourself about that one moment shape the rest of your day? How would it feel to spend the rest of the day blaming someone else for your misfortune versus how would it feel to report the pothole and know you were helping the community. Our world is shaped by thousands of these moments and how we choose to see them.
REVISION IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE
The greatest example of revision I have read about comes from a story about Raymond Carver. Carver struggled with a drinking problem, a problem which showed up in his fiction and effected his life. He wrote a short story called The Bath about a woman that ordered a birthday cake for her son, shortly before he died from an accident. In The Bath, the baker calls repeatedly, hounding the mother about the forgotten cake. The story ends with the mother suffering in the bathtub as the phone rings. The story gives a bleak and hopeless view of the world and everything in it. But Carver wasn’t happy with that story, even though it already made its way into publication. After sobering up and cleaning up his life, he revised The Bath into a story called A Small, Good Thing. In this story, the cake is still ordered, and the son still dies. After receiving the calls from the baker, the mother and father go to the bakery intent of bringing their anger and grief to him. Instead, the baker hears their story and provides solace to the couple with warm rolls from his oven and a place to sit. He creates a safe space and shows human kindness to this couple. This story, to me, captures the power of revision. Even a story set in print and sold to thousands of readers can be changed.
We must always remember that—all stories can be revised, in any given moment; the trick is, the small, good thing to remember in this case, is that you need to tools to think like an author about your own stories.
I’m here to offer you the tools to do just that.
Please reach out to me today to begin working on becoming the author of your own story.
Phone or text: 609-955-1609