Sometimes I wonder if the years I spent learning to play the keyboard were really helping me learn how to touch type. Rainy after school walks to the music shop, long Monday evenings spent playing Blowin’ In The Wind, were really prepping my fingers and my hands to play a different set of keys.
Sometimes I wonder if the lunchtimes spent in the library avoiding the rain (and mean school kids), was really allowing me to create a reverence for books and stories. It was prepping me to feel safe in the company of words, safe in the silence.
Sometimes I wonder if the overthinking, rumination, and anxiety was really teaching me to notice. It was prepping me to be more aware of the details, to see my life, so I always had a story to tell.
Documenting your life with stories allows you to look back on old chapters and join the dots. It allows you to see your life in retrospect. It allows you to create pages to reflect on and enjoy. And because you realise there are so many things that have happened, so many coincidences and brushes with fate, that perhaps a bigger story was at play. Perhaps you didn’t realise it all added up to a beautiful picture. Prepping you for where you are now.
What Does It Mean To Document Your Life With Stories?
When you start documenting your life through stories, you’ll start to notice more stories and then you’ll actively start to set up more stories. You’ll be able to see how you can control the narrative. You’ll be able to shape and respond to situations that will allow you to create something special.
Documenting your life with stories isn’t easy. You’ll have days, months, years even, when you’ll think you have nothing to say. You’ll feel like you don’t know what to write about, but don’t worry, there is a story there. You’re probably just in the middle of it. But the fallow period, the blank page feeling can eventually provide the fuel, the stimulus to launch you into a new story.
So, what does it mean to document your life with stories? It means you stop and write about your life. This could be a journal, the notes section on your phone, a blog, an Instagram post. You could even write a book. The most important thing is that you start.
How To Start Documenting Your Life With Stories
Handwritten notes. Word documents. Scribbles in a notepad. Thoughts on your iPad. There isn’t a right or wrong way. However, by following the steps below, you’ll soon start to see a pile of stories stacked up and saved.
1. Create a timeline.
Focus on the special moments of your life that you want to remember with clarity. The days you wish you could relive. Or the days you don’t ever want to forget. These are the best stories to start with because once you do begin, you’ll find you can’t stop.
The best way to identify these days is by creating a timeline. We can normally identify a few red-letter days, however, by creating a timeline you soon start to realise how the days, the weeks, months, and years have offered up so many wonderful moments.
Draw a long line on a piece of blank paper. Start with moments from childhood that stand out and work your way up to the present day. Think birthdays, Christmas, graduation, whatever feels special to you. Let this be a way for you to see the dots add up.
Each moment or memory you’ve identified is a story in waiting. Pick one and start writing. Just write about the event, how you felt, what happened, what it meant to you. That’s it. You’ve saved your first story.
2. Start noticing the small stuff.
Another way to document your life with stories is by noticing the small stuff. Instead of mining your life for past memories to write about, start looking around you. Start writing about the small moments of joy you experience. The gratitude you have for the story you’re currently living. Actively look for stories each day. Seek something to write about. If you look hard enough, for long enough, you’ll find wonderful stories.
3. Challenge yourself to write regularly.
Stories build. They take time. They take effort. You may start writing one day and feel you can only write for five minutes. Another day it might be fifteen. But the trick with writing is that it compounds. Day by day. Word by word, your stories add up. It’s why the sooner you start, the better. Just keep your targets low, and you’ll be able to write regularly.
4. Write about the things you love.
When you don’t know where to start, or you’re unsure how to document your life with stories, just write about the things you love. People. Places. Food. It’s easy to write about the things you care about, so begin there. Write stories about friends, places you’ve lived, meals that were amazing. Simple stories are a great place to start. Not that there is anything simple about the things we love, but our ability to write about them should feel easy. It should flow. Start there.
5. Keep going.
Documenting your life with stories can feel hard, but it doesn’t have to. Just keep it as easy and as simple as you can. The key is to keep going. Keep writing even when you don’t feel like you have a story to tell. You’ll soon find you’re only just getting started.
Should You Document Your Life With Stories?
You know that feeling, when you get back to work on Monday and someone asks, ‘how did your weekend go?’. You start to scratch your head, straining to look back into the weekend and remember, but even on a Monday morning, it all feels like a blur. Imagine if your whole life was like that?
I’m not saying you’ll forget everything, of course you won’t, but the details wear off. The shiny, funny, exciting, and precious details wear thin when you don’t record them. Documenting our lives with stories has so many benefits. But it doesn’t matter how many times someone outlines these benefits to you; they won’t feel real unless you act. It’s like exercise. We know it will do us good; we know we may feel good afterward; we know it’s time well spent. But it doesn’t make it any easier to lift off the sofa and move your body. It doesn’t make it more exciting or increase motivation (well, for me anyway). But afterwards, it’s so worth it. More often than not, we don’t ever regret the times we did it. We only regret the times we couldn’t be bothered. It’s the same with documenting your stories. In truth, you won’t feel like doing it, but you’ll be glad you did.
More than pictures, more than scrapbooks, deeper than video – documenting our lives with stories. With the written word, we’re able to fully relive events. We’re able to capture our feelings, thoughts, and experiences as we rehash them on the page. We’re ‘within and without’, as Gatsby said. Reliving our version, whilst seeing our experience as an observer, carefully noting a new perspective. And that’s where the beauty lies.
Documenting your life with stories is not as time-consuming as you might think. You don’t have to be a writer. Documenting your life with stories simply starts with the commitment to savour your memories.
Start Documenting Your Life With Stories Today
Do you ever wonder how the dots add up in your life? If the experiences and stories you lived years ago are still at play today? Start documenting your life and look back. You’ll soon see how you were prepped for this moment. How the stories at play created through decades of minor decisions, hard work and strange coincidences. You just need to notice.
Stories From A Backpack is a place that celebrates the process of documenting our life through stories. You don’t have to see yourself as a writer to want to document your life. You can start to save your memories and share your story today.
Become an Everyday Storyteller by writing about your life. Your story matters and Stories From A Backpack is here to help you live a life worth writing about. Join our monthly newsletter to become an Everyday Storyteller with us. Or buy the book Everyday Storytellers and learn how to turn your memories into stories.