Life Story Writing

Teaching Life Story Writing and Musings On My Life ~

Archive for the tag “writing”

Behind A Closed Door

In life we make lists, we separate or compartmentalize our things and experiences.  We organize and categorize our living.  Yet in the end everything is connected, there is no separation in reality.  Okay so maybe I am just trying to explain this to myself.  Why?  I do have a reason and it goes something like this:

A couple of months ago I found myself in York England living out a dream I’d had for many years.  Although born and raised in England I now live in the States so going home is a much looked forward to tradition.  But this was a homecoming of a different kind.  I was travelling alone in England for six weeks and I would finally have time to live out some of my long-held dreams.

Alfred William Hill

Alfred William Hill

Why York and what does it have to do with Life Story writing?  My great-grandfather Alfred William Hill was born and raised in York.  From what little we know that has been passed down he sang in the York Minster and was trained as an Organ Builder no likely at the Minster too.  So what relevance does that have to me today?  Well for one I was born a Hill and secondly I carry some of his genes.  I don’t know about you but for me there is a strong connection to the past, where I came from and who I came from that helps me better understand and appreciate who I am and maybe even why I am the person I am.  Now that has direct bearing on your Life Story right?!

Evenson Chapel

Choir Stalls

The Mighty Organ

The Mighty Organ


My time in York was short but I was there and I reveled in that simple delight.  To think that I was walking where he walked, seeing in part what he had seen.  Well lets face it the Minster Cathedral hasn’t changed that much since he was there.  I was even hearing some of what he had heard as that beautiful organ bellowed out her ancient melodies that lifted our thoughts and eyes heaven ward.  At Evensong I sat a few rows away from the choir stalls and imagined him as a boy singing there.  As the organ played I wondered if he had been trained as an organ builder by knowing some of the intricacies of that organ.  As I climbed the tower up its several hundred steps to the view of the spreading city below I wondered if he had ever seen his world from that perspective.


I thought about his life, how he left this beautiful city to come to the industrial and blackened country of the Midlands.  Did he miss his family?  Did he miss his home?  He had married the daughter of an organ builder who had gone to York to work on the Minster organ, or at least that is what we are told.  Alfred married Bertha and they had four children.  Bertha was carrying their fifth child when she heard the news.  Her husband Alfred was dead, killed in an accident at work.  He had been working on repairing a lift (elevator) when it fell on him and crushed him.  He was just a young 35 years.


The York Minster

The York Minster

My mind was brought back to present day as I stood there in the Minster, breathless with its beauty and its enormity.  These two worlds present and past seemed momentarily to converge as it was as if I could feel Alfred so close that I half expected him to come from behind a closed-door and great me with sparkling eyes and a infectious smile!

Although long gone from this world, I believe my great-grandfather exists as a spirit being, that he is aware of my life here.  I find it realistic to believe that knowing of my visit to York, knowing of my awareness of him, that it is quite possible that he joined me in spirit there that day.   Real or imagined, I was there and it impacted me.

What can I take from this?  Alfred was born an illegitimate child of my great-great grandmother who was in service as a servant in great house at the time.  Taken in and raised by his grandparents as one of their own Alfred made something of his life.  We know of his love of music and singing and his ability to build and create.  We know he dared greatly to leave his home and move to a new place and made a new life.  We know even in those impoverished and challenging times he found love and married, raised children.  In his short life he truly lived his dreams with passion and conviction.

Thank you Alfred for the legacy: Create, Dream, Love and Live!


Is there someone from your past, recent or distant that you feel a connection to?  What have you learned from them?  Write about it!  Capture their story from your perspective.


I Believe In Magic, I Believe In You And In Your Writing!


I am not a child, yet I believe in magic. I believe that even if we don’t feel like writing, even if we think we have writers block, even if all seems to be against us, there is nothing that can stop us simply putting pen to paper and beginning. Even if the beginning is ‘…I don’t know what to write. I am so tired and can’t think. But what I really want to write about is the time my Dad taught me how to ride a bike. It was a cold spring morning. I was five years old. My bike was red, my favorite color…..’ And you keep going, working your way into your memories, letting what wants to be written come easily, not straining for words, writing child-like. Then you take that skeleton and you go back, reading it over. As you do other words pop into your head, other thoughts. You fit those in like jigsaw pieces making the picture become clearer. Now send yourself back to that time. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? As you take time to be calm about your writing, to ponder over time, the memories and words will come. And as you keep writing them, lovingly skimming them off the surface of your mind, others will rise to take their place, like a fountain rising up from the deep. I promise you it is simply a magical experience. Give yourself a gift this Christmas and believe in magic, in your writing and life.

Curiosity ~ The Great Hook

So you don’t think that you are a great writer, you don’t think you have an interesting life.  How can I write my life story you wonder?  Who will want to read it?  Well, you sound normal, like most other ordinary folks out there who are thinking they should write.  First, you don’t have to worry about your 10th grade teacher grading you, or an editor looking over your shoulder.  No one else can quite write your story the way you can, not even a Purlitzer prize winner.  Yes, really!  You are the only one who has experienced your life.  You are the only one with your unique ‘voice’, the way you talk, the way you think, the way you express yourself.  You are real, one of a kind deal.   So just sit down and begin.  The sky won’t fall down.  Life will go on and you will feel grande for making a start.

Okay so now I have got you writing and given you a little boost in your confidence, I am going to share some interesting scientific research that can help you!  Hmmm, really you say, how so?  Well I can’t really say it any better than the article so I will quote from it here and put a link to it.  Here is a quote from Lisa Cron.  Lisa Cron  is an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

‘… for writers the real breakthrough is the discovery of what triggers that delicious sense of enjoyment we feel when a story hooks us. It’s not lyrical language, great characters, realistic dialogue, or vivid images. Nope.

Curiosity is the trigger.

In other words, the desire to find out what happens next. That feeling of pleasure is actually a rush of dopamine. It’s our neural reward for curiosity, urging us to keep reading until we find the answer.’

So how can this help us as we write?  First maybe frame what you are going to write about in a question.  What was it like growing up in rural Kansas in 1920?  How did you meet Grandpa and what were your first impressions?   Lisa continues in her article to give us 7 pointers using curiosity as the hook.  She advices us: Surprise Us, Make Us Feel It, Let Us In On The Protagonist’s Goal, Only Tell Us What We Need To Know, Give Us Specifics, Give Us Conflict, It Must Make Sense To Us.  Read the details of her article here, make your readers curious and happy writing!

Take Time To Find Your Memories

Sometimes its not that I don’t want to write, its that my memories are hard to access or so jumbled up.  It can be work to get to them, a kind of mental digging.  It takes energy and focus which sometimes are not in plentiful supply in my life!  The alternative is to use those vacant moments throughout the day, maybe driving, doing physical tasks (if there are no children screaming for your attention) to focus on a topic or time you wish to write about.  Let your mind wander through your memories.  Have a notepad somewhere you can go to and jot things down as they come, key words to pick up on later.  One person I read puts sticky post it notes all over their house so all they have to do is turn around and write.  I guess they have pens or pencils handy too.  Maybe keep a small notebook in your purse or in the car.

Another possibility is to use a digital voice recorder.  Just grab the recorder when a memory hits and press record and talk.  Talking about the memory is a really good way to enlarge the memory too.

Or take a walk in nature, let your mind wander free and uncluttered, see what memories surface.  Find a time to sit, play some beautiful music and let the thoughts come.

Once the thoughts start coming and I start writing them down, its like skimming them of the top of my mind.  It allows others to surface.  It makes room for them to show themselves too.

In reality I probably spend a significant amount of time thinking, meditating, letting my mind percolate about what I will write about before I actually write.  The actual writing time can be less than the thinking time.  So next time you feel guilty because you are not writing just take a minute to think about your next writing topic.

For those of you families with the Harry Potter stories and Albus Dumbledore’s Pensieve, well I mean, that would be on my Christmas list and a wand of course.  Put the wand to your head, pull an ethereal strand of memory and put it in the pensieve and voila, relive your memory with perfect recollection.  Alas not, no perfect recollection here (and thats another story) but still your life is worth remembering and sharing in all its imperfectness.

The Power Of Words: There Is Room For Your Words In This World

Its been a while since I wrote.  Summer has been and gone.  In September I took a trip back home to England.  October arrived with cooler temperatures and beautiful fall colors.  I turned yet another year older.  November is here. This week brought our first big snow storm of the season.  Why do I let so much time go by without writing?!  I read recently that our resistance, or the thing that keeps us from writing, is proof that what we have to say is worth saying, is important, is worthy of our time to write.  If not, why would there be resistance.  There is resistance in our life when we know we need to be doing something we are not doing.  I like this thought, this revelation.  If I really believed my writing would make a difference either to me or to others, then wouldn’t I be writing more?

As a child many of us learned the rhyme ‘sticks and stones can break our bones but words can never hurt us’.  We would repeat that to ourselves to try and placate or calm or reassure ourselves that words don’t affect us.  The reality is words affect us.  So whether we are speaking or writing, our words have impact.  Believe it.  Your words have the ability to live a life larger than your own.  They can travel across the world at the touch of a button.  They can go places you will never go, talk to people you will never know, affect lives you will never see.  Even if you are the only person that ever sees your words, your eyes may be opened, your heart may feel and your mind be flooded with new thoughts.  Your words may be your therapist, your healer, your friend, your confidant.  The blank page listens, it has no prejudice, no opinion, no grade to hand out.

Whether its paper and pencil or computer all it takes is your time.  No charge.  Its free.  In fact the payment for writing may be worth more than money can buy.  Those who write often express their passion for writing, their need for writing.  Writing becomes essential to their existence, like breathing.  The world is full of words, full of stories but there is always room for yours.

Oooops ‘U’ Turn…

So you know those times where you think, ‘I really need to write’, but then life gets in the way?  Well, welcome to my world.  I have a good list of excuses: I haven’t been feeling too well; family came into town; we went out of town; I got sidetracked on Facebook; I have been tending the grandkids; its so hot I can’t think!

Excuses no more.  Here, for better or for worse (writing wise) is the next installment of the unfolding romantic saga that began the night (Saturday February 4, 2012)  I pray ‘Heavenly Father, if there is someone I should be with please show me’.  Four days later when Ray Denos shows up on my doorstep I don’t quite know what to think.  (You will have to read the previous blog posts to fill in the blanks).  At the end of my last blog I have brought the new friendship with Ray to an abrupt end by sending him a curt, that is, blatently blunt text, telling him exactly what I think of him, at 5am in the morning.  I now find myself waking up Monday 13 February wondering what his response to the text would be.  I don’t have to wait long.  At 6:55am this text arrived: Ok. I will stay away.  Please call if you ever need anything.  I am and always will be your friend.

‘No!’ That is not the response I expected from him. Now tears are streaming down my face.  What is happening?   Why am I so emotional, so upset?  All I can sense is this feeling that I have just lost my best friend.

This is to be no ordinary morning as my phone rings and a frantic voice on the other end needs my help. I take a girl friend to the emergency room.  So there as we wait for Drs and tests, I relate the events and how I have turned Ray away.  She listens as I in true female form, question my decision.  Have I done the right thing?!

Later that evening I look back on the past few days and realize that, one, I have lost my appetite and lost 4 lbs in four days (any of you out there trying to lose a few pounds, me included, knows what a shocker that would be.)  And, two, my night time sleeping pattern has shifted to something like this:  go to bed at 11pm and fall asleep, wake about 3am, go to the bathroom, climb back in bed, toss and turn till about 5am and finally fall asleep again.  During those two hours my mind plays the ‘Ray Scenario’ over in my head.

Hmmm….something is wrong here.  This isn’t normal.  My pulse is elevated and I feel anxious pretty much all the time.  After a little research I recognize the symptoms as adrenal overload.  This guy has sent me into ADRENAL OVERLOAD! You know, thats when your body says ‘fight or flight’!  Did you know that hostility was one of the behaviors manifested by people on adrenal overload?!  Suddenly, the light is on in my mind and I can see all the ways I had acted hostile and defensive with Ray. That is the fight part.  To be quickly followed by the flight part sent in the text at 5am.  I feel exhausted and overwhelmed.  That night I pray again ‘Heavenly Father, if I prayed the first time and you sent Ray, if this is right and I should give this a second chance, please let him contact me again.’  I fall asleep and sleep all night.

Valentines Day dawns and I feel more like myself, more human.  I feel rested and understand what had been happening to my body.  My logical mind now takes over and reasons with my emotional self…’What you really need to do is go on a fun date.  Forget all the talk about exes and kids and just get out and relax, enjoy each others company and learn about one another.’  ‘Yeah’ my emotional self agrees, ‘that’s if I haven’t already blown it.’

‘Besides’ my rational side continues ‘how many guys would go to that much trouble to track you down?  It shows sincerity and determination and a certain desire.  He at least deserves a second chance for that reason alone.’ ‘Right again’ my emotional side relents.  I am driving in town, running errands, paying bills.  Its 9:27 am Valentines Day and a text comes in.  I look.  Its from Ray Denos.  It simply says, ‘Happy Val day.’  Thats all I need.  I apologetically text him:  I am so sorry about this morningPeople on adrenal overload who have hardly eaten and slept in four days should probably not send texts at five in the morning! 

His response: You can text or call anytime.  I will find time for you. 

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