Friday, September 25, 2015


Some parts of life happen on a schedule, but other milestones can come as a surprise--from your first word to your first funeral.  Occasionally, the time that something happened to you becomes important to how you perceive it.  Consider writing moments of perspective changes based upon time:

  • How did you perceive the birth of a child after losing/not having one of your own?
  • How did you perceive someone else's success after a failure of your own or someone else's failure after a success of your own?
  • When did you enter puberty compared to other kids, and how did that change your outlook on things?
  • When did you move out on your own for the first time?
As in all stories about changes in perspectives, make sure to start your story before the shift took place or we will never understand the magnitude of the change in you.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Minor Characters

Last week, we talked about the Do You Know list.  Today, I'd like to talk a little about a Who You Know list.

When we write our life stories, we have a tendency to stick with the events of central characters of our families, what those talking about creative writing might call scenes within the A-story.  But most stories (and lives) have subplots, or B-stories, which add flavor to the whole.  Many of those minor characters are some of our most beloved, from Dickens's Tiny Tim to Lucas's R2-D2.  Adding their stories to your own collection will add flavor and tell us so much more about the time and community in which you have lived.

Consider these questions:

  • Which of your acquaintances has made a significant impact on you?
  • Which of your neighbors has always stuck in your mind?
  • Who had a unique outlook on life?
  • Was there a person who, because of their routine, you frequently met while going about your daily activities?
  • Is there a person with whom you were not necessarily close but who always managed to provoke an emotional response from you (could be happiness, amusement, annoyance, comfort, etc.)?
Consider adding you thoughts on them to your work as well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

We're back!

Welcome back!  As we meet again to begin writing, I wanted to share the Do You Know? Survey developed by Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke that underscored the importance of storytelling in the family.

The Do You Know Scale

Please answer the following questions by circling "Y" for "yes" or "N" for "no." Even if you know the information we are asking about, you don't need to write it down. We just wish to know if you know the information.

1. Do you know how your parents met?Y N
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?Y N
3. Do you know where your father grew up?Y N
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?Y N
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?Y N
6. Do you know where your parents were married?Y N
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?Y N
8. Do you know the source of your name?Y N
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?Y N
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?Y N
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?Y N
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?Y N
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?Y N
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?Y N
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?Y N
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?Y N
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?Y N
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?Y N
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?Y N
20. Do you know about a relative whose face "froze" in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?Y N

Score: Total number answered Y.
(excerpted from Duke, Marshall P. "The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?" Huffington Post. Posted: 03/23/2013 10:09 am EDT Updated: 05/23/2013 5:12 am EDT. Accessed 9/11/15 at 9:00 AM.)

In their research, Fivush and Duke found that children who knew the answers to these questions were more resilient than those who didn't.  Unfortunately, that really only tells half the story.  If you dig a bit further into the research, you will find that those who showed the most resilience didn't just know the stories of their families (and communities), they knew how they fit in--they knew their place in the world.  The stories that they knew were not always the happy ones, either.  Those that showed the most promise knew stories of overcoming difficulty, of losing everything and rising from the ashes again.

Brene Brown constantly reminds us that we humans are wired for connection, that we seek love and belonging.  Love and belonging, however, is a made thing.  The possibilities for it are always there, but we strengthen them through choice, cement them through anecdotal tales, and immortalize them in our written stories.  How or what will you choose connect in your stories today?