One of the best ways to find meaning in your life is through narrative storytelling. In The Power of Meaning, Crafting a Life that Matters, author Emily Esfahani Smith points out that “taking our disparate experiences and assembling them into a coherent narrative … allows us to make sense of ourselves and the world.”
But what if I don’t see myself as a writer?
You’re not alone. But anyone can write life stories for themselves, and I want to help you get started. Like meditation, running or playing the piano, writing takes practice; it is like a muscle that you need to exercise. So building a writing habit helps tremendously in building your confidence in your writing.
Four Tips to Start Writing Your Stories
1. Create a Sticky Habit
Commit to write at the same time each day.
Set a timer for 20–25 minutes. Writing in short “sprints” is a very effective tool, and it also is an achievable goal.
Make a ritual that tells your brain and body it is time to write. Examples include five minutes of guided meditation or a specific playlist that you listen to before or while you write. I use Spotify Focus. Once I turn it on, I know it is time to write.
My ritual also involves going for a short walk before writing. Getting out in nature before you write can be very helpful. There is scientific evidence that getting outdoors, even for short periods of time, can boost our mood and also increase our focus and attention. Plus, getting even a small dose of nature can lead to the feeling of awe, always a good thing before being creative.
2. Quiet Your Inner Critic
Shut off your inner critic, you know, the one that says you cannot write or that you have nothing to say. Even if you are a great writer, it is important to shut off that inner voice in your head. Do not worry about the right words or whether a comma or semicolon is better. All of that editing can come later.
Let your intuition and the creative right side of your brain have their say.
Set the Timer and Freewrite
Freewriting is a practice that helps you find your writer’s voice and build your writing muscles.
- Find a writing prompt that appeals to you (see below)
- Set your timer
- Write without stopping, just keep your pen moving (or your fingers typing) with the first thing that comes to mind. Do not worry if you have the right word. Don’t judge your thought.Just keep writing.
- If you cannot think of anything to write, just repeat the last thing you wrote or type “I am writing” over and over until your next thought comes to you. You can edit later.
3. Find Writing Prompts
If you are struggling to figure out what to write about, try one of these prompts:
One thing I always remember about my (pick a family member) is…
An event in my life I consider significant or pivotal is…
Find a sensory feeling from childhood (the small of your grandma’s perfume, seeing the wonder of the stars at night with a parent or childhood friend, the feeling of the soft ribbon on your blanket). Write about it.
For more ideas, look at my list of questions. Although the questions were designed to help you capture family stories, they also make great writing prompts.
Interested in learning more about the power of storytelling to develop a life of resilience, connection, and meaning? Check out my Write Into Joy workshops to learn how to build resilience and joy through journaling & reflecting. Click here to see a list of upcoming workshops.