How and where should I start my personal story?
There are so many ways to tell a personal story (non-fiction). A word, picture, song, dance, poem, conversation, a look on your face, book (fiction, memoir and non-fiction), video, art, tapestry, social media, presentation, recipe and the list goes on.
But first, it starts with your experiences and without them how can you begin to share?
Experiences shape us. Every experience resides in our cells. Some stay suppressed, although we may think that we have worked them out, our bodies know differently, and we may end up with some kind of dis-ease. These dis-eases become stories for us to work with, in some way.
You may not become unwell, it may be that you are surrounded by events that affect you, family or friend and your involvement change the course of your life. Others go on wild adventures, just because they can.
At some point, there is a call to write your personal story.
I look at stories from a perspective that says some are there for inspiration, some are for us to heal, expand and transform from, and others for content for something else, such as books.
If you are called to write a book, it can be extremely confusing to know which is the story and where to start it.
When I look at my life there are so many things that I could write books on. To make matters worse I am interested in a wide variety of subjects, qualified or trained in all sorts. I have healed myself and dealt with many demons. It could get messy…
Where and how should I start my personal story?
Which part of your life’s journey, why that part and what is the point of sharing? Think about this – stories define who we are, how we make meaning and they can own us or we can own them. They also tell others a lot about who we are and they, in turn, can make meaning.
Stories are soul food.
Which story test
There are a few things that I do when working out which story and where to start it.
- Core message
- The heart spot test
In this article, I am going to focus on core message, relevance and purpose, although I feel I am only brushing the surface of this subject. In my next article on a personal story, we’ll look at what the heart spot is and how to use it to test our story.
Core message and relevance
When thinking about the story you want to share what is your overall core message? For me, it is about inspiring others to write and share their story, to develop their identity and create personal brand alchemy. I’ve said in other blogs that I need to walk my coaches talk. While I have other books published what I don’t have is the kind of story I am asking others to write and share.
What is the core message of your book and how relevant is this story to who you are, what you do or what you intend to do?
Rude Awakenings – A journey to self-love is about awakening, finding myself and discovering self-love. It is very much a personal story of the kind I love to work on. There is something delicious about more intimate writing.
The premise of the book is something(s) happened to wake me up and send me on a physical, emotional and spiritual journey. This journey as you can easily guess is about finding self-love. I came to discover, as an aside that self-love is for me the foundation of being. It gives me inner peace and contentment, so vital is this mad world.
Where and how to start your personal story
The question is do I go back to how I came to be in a position to be woken up? That is do I write about my life pre wake up call? Or do I start with the kick in the teeth? Ask yourself how relevant your backstory is to the overall story? Could you if you didn’t spend a long time leading in, refer back and weave in short snapshots of backstory?
Personally, I felt that it was more impactful to start with the shock because the story is about my journey, not the character or life that my ex and I had. I can make reference to and demonstrate some of this later.
Resist the urge to start your story too early.
This event meant that I had to physically up sticks and move to another country without any idea of what this would entail or what I would find there. Once there the emotional fallout was pretty intense and is key to the story. But because I did not listen to my intuition, I was stopped in an extremely painful way. And only then did the ‘real’ learning commence. What is interesting is as I pick my story apart I can find many books I could write if I were involved with other kinds of businesses or wanted to change direction.
As a reader, where the story starts should leave you wondering what happens next, and raising more questions for you.
Opening the computer I was faced with a rare and unusual sight, my husband’s penis. Only a few minutes earlier an insistent voice had instructed me to ‘open the computer.’ The voice was loud, but there wasn’t anyone there. Looking around and feeling foolish, I stepped towards the kitchen table and tentatively touched his mobile phone. ‘Open the computer!’ this time louder and more urgent.
Later in my story, while ignoring signs to slow down I received another shock. This time an accident, which once again changed the course of my life. Could I have started the story here?
If my business was let’s say as a healer, yoga or mindfulness teacher and I used some specific techniques that I learned during my recovery, combined with some other stuff that I already did, this could be a great place to start. I could use this story to inspire others who has a physical injury to heal and it would be fabulous for my brand. Again a coach who is walking their talk.
November 2015. As I was flying through the air, I had one thought, not my head. My knee smacked into the concrete, closely followed by my ribs and finally my head touched the ground. My initial reaction was can I breathe? The breath is incredibly healing and is one of the keys to life. Tentatively I filled my lungs, pushing out my stomach, focusing and following my breath I knew that nothing was broken. If I could breathe, I was ok, right? I didn’t pass out, but I thought I might. Instead, I did something that was a complete anathema to me, I called for help.
Imagine now that I am a nutritionist. This next story’s starting point could be used to kick off yet another book and a recipe book as a follow up.
Go for a well woman test. The voice was very clear. Despite having to pay for my medical treatment, I felt that this would be a good investment. Hey, what did I have to lose, I was already eating well, very self aware, not tired and able to walk many miles every day with the dogs? Besides I was convinced that nothing would come up.
How wrong I was.
The woman check up changed many things for me.
I was very upset to find that my T4 was elevated and my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was almost none existent. Visions of my mum and all of her ailments came to mind, and I felt crushed. What if I ended up with all of the stuff that she has and this T4/TSH thing was just the start. For two days, I wallowed in self pity stuffing my face with things I wouldn’t normally let pass my lips. After which pity me contacted a friend who I knew was working through a thyroid issue. Before I did anything else we chatted. She gave me a number of pointers and which sent me down another set of yet unexplored paths.
So many stories…
You see so many of us have so many stories. The key is to understand which stories are there for our healing and growth and which are there for us to share and inspire. Then to consider our core message, and how the books core message is relevant to our brand. Next to think about which stories should go in the book (core message and relevance).
Your books purpose
Before you panic and think, but I want to write this story, because I want to write my story and it’s not to build a brand or change the world – I just want to write it. Or it’s for my family. That is purpose. The process of writing a book has purpose and you will learn many skills.
There are many books that are written for cathartic reasons this is also purpose. Though I know from experience that these often morph your life path into a direction that you might not have consciously planned for. The truth is that was always your purpose and the book the ignition.
All of this aside. As you plan your book and think about which story or stories ask what is the purpose of telling your reader this? What does it add? Is it just waffle?
Write several openings to your book and test them.
Work out are you going towards something or away from it.
Go back to the beginning once you have finished as your story may have evolved.
The best advice is to plan your book, write everything and then edit hard.
That’s it for this article – core message, relevance and purpose.
If you are still unsure about where and how to start your story, I find reading other books, fiction and non-fiction wonderful for research and inspiration.
Got a personal story that you want to write, but not sure where to start, book in for a call and let’s explore.
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