My One Thing – Storytelling My Life

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Pick a direction, start marching down that path and
see how you like it.  Time brings clarity and if you find
you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.
It’s your life.
– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The One Thing

The Short Version

After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (see my notes on it here), I realized that my ONE Thing is storytelling my life.  Being a writer is too narrow for my life and being a photographer is also too limited.  I desire both and need both to achieve what I want, which is to record and curate my life.

I first read about curating my life on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (here), particularly her comment from a book that said, “self-curate or disappear”.  She expands on this with these questions, all of which I answered “yes” to:

How about you? Do you “self-curate”?
What steps do you take to preserve memories,
to catalog memorabilia, to leave a record of your life,
thoughts, experiences, and to review it?
Do you do it for yourself, or with an eye to an audience?

Wikipedia says curation is, “archiving, historical record keeping”, and that “in general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization”.

This is what I do with my journals and photographs.  I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.

No Longer A Writer

I realized earlier this year that being a writer no longer fit me, way before I started contemplating my one thing.  In my journal, I wrote:

What about not being a writer?

I’m okay with that.

I don’t want to be in front of the computer for long periods of time, just staring at it.

I really really hate the thought of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all those drafts.  I’d rather watch grass grow – at least I’d be outside!

My imagination / observation is not up to that of authors.  I read all the details they put in to bring a story to life and it just blows past me.  I skip over a fair of that, which is NOT helping develop my skills as a writer either.  But if I find it interferes with the enjoyment of the story, I’d find it tedious to no end to actually write.

My life experience is actually pretty limited to be a writing what goes on in my Walter Mitty imagination.  My real life is narrow and boring with few opportunities to experience what I daydream about.  In other words, I would write without authority or knowledge.  I suppose I could obtain such knowledge through research but my time is limited, my energy is low, and my desire to do so is non-existent.

And the photography? It’s easier for me, goes faster, I have my favorite boy toy as a resource,  and people would rather look at picture than read something thoughtful anyhow.

So I guess I want to keep my journals, but for now, nothing more beyond that.

After I wrote that, I stared at it for a couple of days, then grieved.  I wasn’t ready to give up being a writer, something I thought all my life I would do.  So I decided to not give it up.

And a few days later realized that yes, this door was closed for now.  It really was good to decide that I’m not a writer.

Not Only a Photographer Either

As the summer went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be just a photographer either.  It would have been easy enough to convert my blog to mostly photographs.  I’m capable of some really good work and have enough inventory that I could post a daily picture for a fairly lengthy period before I’d run out of ideas.

But that didn’t suit me either.  Just as being a writer was too limiting, being only a photographer didn’t contribute enough.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Being a Storyteller

That’s when I realized that I wanted to tell stories from my life, with both writing and photography.  They complement each other and together give a fuller, more rounded story, the story of me.  Something to remember my life by and hopefully pass to generations after me.

Per Wikipedia, “storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences”, which is what I want to do.

Margaret Heffernan wrote an article in Inc. about a narrative template for storytelling, called ABT, that said:

So if you start with your information (And)
but only pile on information, you lose momentum
and a sense of destination. So you have to
move on to your challenges (But) and then
imagine a resolution (Therefore).

I haven’t overly focused on technique, but it matches what I try to do.  I make a point, share from my life how I executed (or failed) and why it was important to me.  As with anything, it doesn’t work everytime, but I get (and appreciate) the comments that you all are relating to many things that I post in my blog.

As I’m writing this, I did some research on Google about storytelling techniques.  Needless to say, there are all kinds of hints and tips out there. had a useful list of tips for those telling verbal stories that also applies to what I’m doing.  Two particularly good reminders were to tell stories that I like and to not hesitate to remove slow moving parts.  Amanda Lewan’s blog post is directed to the fiction writer, but she has a good reminder to show, don’t tell.

I’ve been working on this approach for a while and need to continue honing my skill at storytelling my life.  For now though, for my creative side, this is my ONE Thing.  Identifying it and writing it out nurtures my creativity by giving me focus and helping me prioritize my time and efforts.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


31 Days Creativity Goals & Resolutions Maine (Acadia National Park) Write 31 Days

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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

16 Comments Leave a comment

    • I think she’s the greatest! Her book, The Happiness Project, was highly influential on my life. I like how real she is. She’s not writing about those mystical someone’s out there. She writes about her life and how she changed it. I enjoy that most of all about her.

    • Thanks Phil! You’re right that I’ve invested a lot of time this month into sorting and grouping my thoughts and ideas. I hadn’t looked at it that way, but that’s how it’s gone. It wasn’t what I expected when I started the challenge, but I’m really happy with it. I’m glad you liked the quote from The One Thing. I thought it was so appropriate for my life!

  1. I have questioned my need to ‘document’ and ‘write’ and how I view what and why I do what I do. I love to write. But I seldom do ‘drafts’. I just write, sometimes reflecting and reviewing. But what I’ve decided for now, is that I love to create. Whether with word, a sketch or photography, or even building something with wood. I just love to create. And your questions keep running in my head. Though I do ‘it’ because I love doing it….there are many things I do for a specific audience. That audience that I have in mind most, is not yet old enough to read, and others don’t really pay a lot of attention to what I create. But someday, I know they will.

    • I’m the same way – I sit and write it up, edit it and then post. I know some bloggers put together a plan and write it up over the weekend. I tried it and it doesn’t work for me. I might mull it over during the day, but I’m not spending a lot of time preplanning what I’m going to post next.

      And I love to just create – I really agree with you on that. And that’s good enough. I have a job if I want to making money or looking for recognition. My creative stuff is solely because I enjoy doing it.

      I do have the same issues with my audience – my family doesn’t care about the blog (too much reading! not enough pictures! I don’t have time!) or my journals, so I hope a future generation will care.

      • My family is HUGE. And aside from a devoted few, they don’t pay much attention either. But I know in the long run it will have value to someone. Even if it’s just me! ;) But I know of a few who will one day be glad it’s there.

  2. I was surprised to read your article because you put into words how I’ve been feeling too. I always wanted to be a writer but I haven’t got the commitment. I did make a start but then got sidetracked with a new interest in photography. I have recently come to the same conclusion as you – that they complement each other. So I’m concentrating on the photography for now, with such a lot more to learn yet. I also write Morning Pages every day, which I first read about in “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I have also kept a journal for several years now. So thank you, Nancy, for a thought-provoking post and for some very informative links. Wishing you all the best with whichever endeavours life leads you too. The journey is fascinating. I love that there is no set path but that, for each one of us, the path opens up as we walk it. Bless you.

    • Thanks Isabella! Your comment just warmed my heart and I’m glad that the post spoke to your heart. I haven’t done the Morning Pages, although I’ve read Julia Cameron’s book and it has a lot of good points in it.

      I’m not sure where this will all lead, but I don’t know that I have to know that right now. It’s enough to simply enjoy it and be present for it.

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