“As a bird must sing, it’s your human nature to tell your story.” —Tristine Rainer
“Everyone has a story.”
We hear this phrase often enough it’s nearly cliché.
Because we’re finally embracing its beautiful truth. As we watch others navigate adventure, grief, shock and joy, we see true stories played out all around us. The world is a movie screen, and her people our heroes.
When, years ago, I first discovered I had a story to tell, I burned to tell as many people as possible. Like cash in my kids’ pockets, I felt compelled to spend the currency of my accumulated life experiences. The truth demands revelation! I must share so others know they’re not alone!
After a couple years, however, as I listened to and read the countless stories of others, I realized the pages of my own story were not all that uncommon. Everywhere I turned I found someone with a narrative and a burning passion to deliver it. The more scripts I uncovered, the more my story’s significance—and my passion to tell it—diminished. Does my story really matter? And, if so, why?
Yes, our stories do matter. To varying degrees, perhaps. Delivered in different packages and to diverse audiences, certainly. Your story, though surrounded by a million others, is entirely uncommon because it filters through you, a unique, unmatched creation. To allow the stories of others to diminish the value of your own is like refusing to appreciate the warmth of the sun simply because it shines on so many others.
Tristine Rainer’s Your Life as Story, is one of my chief resources on the crafting of personal narrative. Within the first two-dozen pages, she exposes the many possible reasons why we may choose to write our stories:
- You want to see how your life makes a story by setting it down.
- You want the catharsis and self-forgiveness of an honest and complete confession.
- You are in midlife and want to gain from the life behind you the wisdom to mold the life still before you.
- You are nearing the end of your life and wish to understand and share what it has meant.
- You want to touch the sacred, to find the eternal form of myth in your own contemporary life.
- You are motivated by familial love to leave for your descendants knowledge of who you were and the life you lived.
- You are motivated by desire to relieve the loneliness, fear, or ignorance of others who may find themselves in a situation you’ve been through.
- You wish to write about your family as a way of ending destructive cycles and creating cohesion based on truth.
- You want to relive and relish the best years of your life.
- You know that the only thing that death cannot destroy is memory, and you wish to preserve from forgetfulness those you have loved.
- You can endure your life only by transforming it into a work of art.
- Your way to cope with your troubles is to make yourself and others laugh at them.
These are only a few of reasons she lists, but you can see the breadth of possible applications. Will we publish our stories to the acclaim of thousands? Only a rare few will achieve that goal. Will we share it on a grand stage to a packed arena? Not impossible, but doubtful.
Does sharing your story still matter?
To your family, yourself, and the many of us reaching for your reflection of the sun … Yes, yes, YES!
It’s merely up to you to decide why—and for whom—you will write it.
Which of Rainer’s reasons for sharing your story motivates you?