Many people have told me they want to write a book this year. I have eagerly responded with…”what do you want to write about?” Yet, I feel like I need a more encouraging response. Recently, I’ve begun asking, “what kind of stories do you like to tell?” When we tap into people’s gift of sharing a story, we encourage them to find their voice. Perhaps, a better way to start this conversation is a pause and an invitation; “tell me a story”.
Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa, is a great story teller. Dinesen once responded in an interview, “I am not a novelist, really not even a writer; I am a storyteller. One of my friends said about me that I think all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them, and perhaps this is not entirely untrue. To me, the explanation of life seems to be its melody, its pattern. And I feel in life such an infinite, truly inconceivable fantasy. (From an interview in 1957).
Are the sorrows of the pandemic calling us to be story tellers? Are we longing to write or to share stories to once again see the melodies and patterns?
The second most frequent question I get about writing a book this year is…”I don’t know how to start!”
In a recent conversation with a client, he longed to write a book but did not know how to get started.Once we realized he needed a community of writers to write with, we moved into what he might write about. I provided a short story starter and we soon unlocked a string of ideas about a capturing his family’s heritage for his children and grandchildren. By providing a place for people to launch their stories we might help all the pandemic stories of the year to be documented, shared and maybe even published.
But, how do we start?
I remember so clearly in the film Out of Africa, Meryl Streep, who played Dinesen, telling stories to Robert Redford. She’d begin with the request of the first line of the story, and then the weaving of tales and images and adventure would begin. Perhaps, we can provide our friends and family who want to write a book with a story starter and a listening ear.
Or, maybe you remember an elementary school game where one person started the story, stopped after a few sentences and then passed the story to the next person. The story would build with laughter, joy, adventure and absurdity as it passed around the room. We were all story tellers, it encouraged us to be writers.
If you want to share your story, or write a book…perhaps the first step is to find someone to listen and tell a story. There are many stories to share from this last year. Perhaps, if we all pause and just tell our story, we can begin to move forward with open hearts, eyes and ears. And maybe, a book or two.
“To be a person is to have a story to tell.” Dinesen