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 Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist.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 I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.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.
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. Storyteller.net 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.