Living to Write the Tale


A novel concept came across my radar lately in the form of a guest post request – the idea of planning to live a life worth writing about. Although I saluted the basic idea, my initial reaction was that such a post belongs in inspirational blogs, and does not fit the focus of this life writing blog. At first glance, it seems to contradict what I’ve said many times, that any life is worth writing about. I also failed to see the connection between establishing visions and goals and writing about life.

The second time I received a proposal about this, something clicked. The idea of taking charge of your life, however many days or years you have left is nothing new. I recognized that people like Elizabeth Gilbert did just that in her best-selling memoir, Eat Pray Love. She planned the sort of adventures she wanted to experience and write about and negotiated a book contract before she bought her plane ticket. A few purists felt that was contrived and perhaps a tad beyond the pale for memoir. But the vast majority applauded her spunk.

What was new this second time was realizing that life writing has powerful tools for making that planning effective, and they’ll work for any age.

These tools work because writing makes thinking visible. Once you see something on the page, whatever form it’s in, it’s easier to understand and manage. Use these tools to explore your hopes and dreams and develop ways to bring them about.

1) Journal: Use your journal to write about hopes and dreams.

  • Make a bucket list of 100 things you want to do, visit, see, or experience before you die.
  • Journal or freewrite about possible ways of doing these things.
  • Explore reasons why you believe you can or cannot do any given one
  • Dig into your beliefs and values.
  • Record your dreams and explore desires hidden in them.

2) Write stories about things you’ve already done that felt especially fulfilling. Dig more deeply into these stories to explore what elements made them exciting or fulfilling and journal about ways to add more of this element to your life.

3) Write stories about things you dream of doing. Include yourself as the main character and give yourself all sorts of exciting challenges you’d live to have. Live your dreams on the page. Even if you never set foot out of your house, you’ll have much the same sense of fulfillment that you would gain from actually doing whatever it was.

Although it seems a bit eerie, visionaries have known for ages that vividly imagining something tricks the brain into believing it is real or really happened. If you write vividly about doing something, your brain will respond as if you have, and make it easier to “do it again.”

So whatever your age, finances or other perceived limitations, write yourself a life worth writing about, then live it to the fullest and go on to to write the tale.

Write now: pull out paper and pen and write yourself into an adventure you'd love to have in real time. Make it vivid, with full detail and emotion. Write a lot about how you feel as you “live in the story.”. Be exotic and daring. Write it in present or past tense, not future, and avoid any form or thought of “if.” Write this real. Polish the story and cherish it. Then put it away and see what happens.

Image credit: Coolcal2011


KathyPooler said...

Sharon, I can vouch for this method working. When I was on my way to Boston for stem-cell transplant in 1997( Stage 4 NonHodgkins Lymphoma), I wrote 12 tangible things I wished for in the coming year in my journal-- dancing at my friend's wedding, having hair for my niece's wedding, a plane trip to visit friend's in MO & WI, etc. It forced me to focus my limited energy on recovery and positive outcomes. I would visualize myself as healthy and happy. Every single visualization came true. Mind I over matter. It works! This post took me right back to the night I journaled. Amazing how framing your fears through a positive yielded positive results. Thanks for the reminder.

Sharon said...

Kathy, you reminded me that I made a similar list when I'd grown weary of living in Richland, WA and hoped for greener pastures. I made the list and stuck it away. The next time I saw it, I'd lived in a Pittsburgh suburb for two or three years. Every single one of the dozen items on that list had materialized.

Yes, this stuff works. Now I need to take my own advice and make a new list!

Jessica Baverstock said...

I love the idea of writing yourself into an adventure and give yourself challenges to overcome!
Sometimes we shy away from doing new things because we worry about how we'll manage when we hit problems. Turning yourself into the hero/heroine of your own story changes your mindset and encourages you to meet challenges head on.
I must try this! :D

Herm said...

Two weeks ago I began doing some free writing to get the juices flowing. Seems I woke up my muse because I found myself in the middle of a novel. I wrote until muse took a snooze. I read what I'd written to my wife. She became upset/jealous of the woman sitting at the table caddy-corner to mine in this elegant club. Guess I described her and how I felt pretty well.
I don't let her read anymore, but I keep adding on as Mr. Muse whispers in my ear.

Sharon said...

Keep me posted Jessica. Sports experts have known for decades that visualized practice is as important as actual playing. Olympic athletes are trained in this at their center in Colorado Springs. Writing is a way to make thinking visible and organize it for other visualization purposes. Can you tell I'm making this up as I go? But that is solid material.

Sharon said...

Oh Herm, you have me hooked right now. I am burning with curiosity! MR. Muse. Tell us more... Remind your sweet wife this is FICTION and your sales will indulge her whims. I'm becoming convinced that many tales and many truths are best told as fiction, and that sky has lots more space to soar.