For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved stories. As a toddler, I remember curling up in a big armchair with my grandma while she read picture books to me tirelessly. When I got a bit older, my mom started reading the Little House series aloud to me. Then, at the beginning of third grade, I got that magical key to the kingdom I’d always wanted: my first “chapter book,” Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary. If I close my eyes, I can still see the vivid orange of the paperback cover and feel the crisp pages turning under my fingers.
For me, this was a turning point, the opening of an escape hatch that I could slip through whenever I wanted to leave my own life behind. Stories became my shield from whatever pain I was feeling in my childhood and adolescence. Later, they became my anchor as my young adult life took some unexpected turns and I felt completely alone in the world.
As I travelled slowly into the more stable waters of adulthood, I found myself thinking about my own story. Being an avid reader, I have a narrator who exists in my head. She describes the goings on in my life with an artful turn of phrase. She can be sardonically entertaining, viciously critical, or hilariously melodramatic, depending on the day. As a coach, I’ve come to recognize her as my ‘inner critic’ and have learned to take her dictates with a grain of salt, but I still occasionally get drawn into her narrative, which is often compelling and full of interesting subplots and twists.
One of the things that I’ve come to realize is how much power there is in our stories: they are potent and full of meaning. Every day, we choose our story and what it means to us. Each retelling of an experience can highlight different nuances, alter certain plot points or illuminate specific truths.
1. Think of a powerful story of a personal experience in your past. Write it out.
2. Now decide: What genre best describes your story? Is it a comedy? A romance? An epic? A true crime novel?
3. Now think about:
- What characteristics could you exaggerate to better fit the genre you chose?
- What characteristics could you change to make it a different genre altogether?
- How does this change your feelings about the story?