Tell Your Story

I posted this photo a while ago on Twitter but I’d like to post it here because it has inspired me to talk about something I feel passionate about.

It astounds me how inspirational some of the graffiti is that I come across.

Tell Your Story.

Whether it be shouting it from the rooftops, talking about it over coffee, painting it, photographing it, singing it, wearing clothes that say what it is, and of course, writing it – we all have a story to tell.

I had a conversation with a young woman I know today who mentioned her desire to write a book about a significant event in her life. She is a good writer – I’ve read some of her prose – but she is worried no one will want to read her story. She believes her story is too ordinary.

‘On the contrary,’ I said. There is no story that is too ordinary and in fact, most of the memorable characters in fiction and film – Tennessee Williams’ Stanley Kowalski, Jane Austen’s Emma, Alice Walker’s Celie; even Clarice Starling from Silence Of The Lambs were ordinary people. Memorable people.

The point I’m trying to make is that most of our personal heroes (unless they are actually superheroes) are ordinary, everyday people who through the beauty of storytelling turn out to do extraordinary things.

There are stories all around us waiting to be told. People all around us with stories to tell.

These quotes say it better than I ever could –

Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.

~ MELODY BEATTIE

It’s the process of writing and life that matters. We are trying to become sane along with our poems and stories.

~ NATALIE GOLDBERG

In unsettled times like these, when world cultures, countries and religions are facing off in violent confrontations, we could benefit from the reminder that storytelling is common to all civilisations……the story is our most ancient method of making sense out of experience and of preserving the past.

~ WILLIAM COLLINS

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.

~ ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN

However you choose to do it TELL YOUR STORY. It really is worth telling.

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33 thoughts on “Tell Your Story

  1. You are right Selma – ordinary can become extraordinary with the telling (it is a bit like originality – the topic of a book doesn’t need to be original if the writing is good). All the photos can tell a story – and isn’t it funny how when we look at people when out in public we are usually telling ourselves a story about them (which is probably far from the truth but it is human nature to fill in the gaps – haha) – or maybe I am the only one who does that – haha.

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    1. I DO THAT, GABE! I am always making up stories about people. I doubt any of them are accurate, but it’s fun to do it. There are a few people around here I see a lot and it would be great to know their stories. I have imagined many wild and crazy things about them!!

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  2. Such wise words, Selma. You should teach young writers. You could do wonders to inspire them. So many teachers manage to do just the opposite.

    I love your photos of ordinary people.

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    1. That’s really kind of you to say so, Patti. I take that as a great compliment. To me there has to be a component of mentorship with writers young and old, otherwise what’s the point. When I used to teach I used to get an incredible amount of joy from working with and inspiring young writers. In many ways it was more fulfilling than tackling my own writing!

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  3. A lovely sentiment to reinforce … it’s so important to overcome that little voice that says we shouldn’t tell our story, and just go for it. Your photos made me giggle a little because I was talking about the inspiration of observation on my blog today. Great minds think alike! 😉

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    1. I love that you were talking about observation too. Definitely on the same wavelength there….

      We all have that little voice, don’t we? For the most part I have learnt to ignore it, but it isn’t easy…

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  4. “She believes her story is too ordinary.”

    Yes, I struggle with thinking my novel is too cliche.

    But then I remember something Poppa Sye taught me.

    “It’s never the story you tell. It’s HOW you tell the story.”

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    1. There is no way in the world your novel is too cliched. No no NO. It is an extraordinary story. I want you to believe that. It is a story DEFINITELY worth telling!!

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  5. I gotta write my novels. Might be too out there & too scifi for most people but if I know humanity, a 100 years after my death they will be singing my praises. “Oh he was so advanced of his time, blah blah blah”

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  6. I must say I feel very privileged to hear the life stories of ordinary people as a therapist. I find the process amazing, of bringing a casually dressed stranger into my office who then opens her mouth and offers up pearl after pearl after pearl. It’s quite mesmerizing.

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    1. It must be an incredible experience, Squirrel. Obviously, some of the stories must be quite harrowing but I can imagine there must be a large number of pearls. You must have heard some amazing things!

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  7. very thoughtful selma – everyone’s life is full of unique experiences that are well worth the telling, but for me, it seems like various stories come in at different times and places, some mark cornerstones or turning points and some are part of an ongoing thread, and all the time life’s path proceeds to the next story or phase w/o one having the chance or the time really, to stop and consider the value in a sense, or to unravel the meaning. so i often wonder where and how to begin. you could start with “i was born….”
    or you could start with what happened a moment ago, or maybe isolate just the stories that hang together as a sort of theme – if you were to write your life story, where would you begin? that for me would be the first question….

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    1. I wish I had written: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ that is the perfect starting point of a life story for me. Nothing will ever compare to it….

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  8. What a great gift you have given your friend – encouraging her to share her story. I know nothing about her and I agree. I find that lately I am writing a lot. My brain is waaaay too active! I have many unpublished posts for my blog as I’m just not sure how much I want to share. But the stories are written and that is very therapeutic in itself. I think many people have fascinating hidden tales and even if the story is only shared over coffee with a close friend, it is so precious to the receiver to be entrusted with it.

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  9. Oh, and speaking of stories. Your little snippet you shared on my blog post last week was awesome! “The colour of the flowers in the first photo reminds me of a suit my Aunt used to wear in the ’60s. It was very Jackie O and quite chic.” What an amazing correlation between the flowers I photographed and your memories. Now to me that photo is even more significant knowing it triggered that within you. 🙂 Because isn’t that what we also want? To therapeutically write it, to share it and in some way to touch someone’s life positively.

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    1. Telling stories is definitely therapeutic and YES to be the receiver of the tale – however it is told – is such a gift.
      I am so glad I could add to the view of your beautiful photo. As soon as I saw it I thought of that suit. An unforgettable colour!

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  10. I agree Selma. Although there are no “original” stories anymore, different perspectives give it a twist and make even the most ordinary of stories extraordinary and relatable. It’s not so much the story as it is the way it’s told.

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  11. When I was taking oral histories in the Brazilian Amazon in 1993, the best moments were some of those when someone I’d approached said that didn’t want to interview because they had nothing interesting to say. Then I said, but you have a story, don’t you? Doesn’t everyone have a story? It didn’t always work, but when it did it was wonderful when a ordinary person just opened up about the things that were important to them in their own lives. I could listen to people tell stories all day long, and some days, I do. Thanks for this.

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    1. I could too, John. That’s what life is all about for me. Not money and fame and stuff. I want the stories. They are the esence of life.

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