Your Story Has an Expiration Date

Patricia-CharpentierLifeArt Studio is happy to offer this guest post from Patricia Charpentier of Writing Your Life! When I meet people, tell them that I'm a writer and instructor, that I help people write their life stories, ninety-nine percent of the time, they launch into the story they want to write. I always listen with interest because the stories are usually intriguing. As they wrap up, I ask how much have they written. They look down at the floor and say they haven't actually started yet, that they are waiting for retirement, when the kids go off to college, a time when work is less demanding, fill in the blank.

I've learned a great deal about this phenomenon of talking in lieu of writing in my own experience and in the sixteen-plus years of guiding people in writing the story of a lifetime. Here are my top three insights:

  1. Be honest. Do we really want to write our life stories, or do we gain enough satisfaction just talking about the possibility? This may sound odd, but I spent fifteen years talking about all the stories I wanted to write but didn’t pick up a pen. Even today, I talk about writing my story, yet I often put the stories of my clients before my own work.

I've also met many people who never really intend to write their stories. They like the idea of writing, not necessarily the reality of it. Talking about writing is interesting, creates good conversation, usually commands attention; it's a way to share bits of their life stories without much effort. That alone may be enough to satisfy, and that's ok, as long as we understand our true desire. But if we want more than just talk, then we need to take action.

  1. There is no right time. The perfect scenario for writing your life story will never magically appear. We must first make the decision to write, not just talk about our desire. Then we need to carve out the time, energy, and space to do this important work. One of my clients was 103.5 years old when I first met him, and he was still waiting for the right time and circumstances to begin writing. That magical place does not exist.
  1. Use time already available. We don't need blocks of three or four hours before we can begin to write. We can make use of the time we have. We can write as we wait in the doctor's office. We can write while sitting in line, waiting to pick up a child from school. We can get up a half hour early or stay up a half hour later. We can forego one television show a week and use that time to write. We need to make use of the time we have.

Several years ago, I received a phone call from a woman named Eunice who had taken a class with me. She said, "I did what you told me to do. I wrote for ten minutes a day, and I want to invite you to my book launch." Eunice worked a full-time job, and she was a mother of young children, but she made use of the little time she had and had a book to show for it.

We don't like to think about the fact, but the opportunity to write our life stories comes with an expiration date. We don't always have all the time we think we have. My 103.5-year-old client didn't live to see his book completed. Another man had a massive stroke while training for a marathon and can no longer speak or write. One woman's hip replacement was going to give her the pain relief and mobility she needed to write, but she died of a pulmonary embolism while in rehab.

I don’t say this to be morbid but as a reminder that if we genuinely want to write our life stories, now is the perfect time to take action toward that goal. We are at a place of beginnings. A brand new year is a wonderful time to start a life story writing project.

If you make the decision to write, here’s an opportunity that might jumpstart your energy and optimize your efforts. This Saturday, January 16th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., consider participating in the Stop Talking, Start Writing workshop, held at Walden Community School, 4595 Howell Branch Road in Winter Park, Florida 32792.

In Stop Talking, Start Writing, you will learn:

  • how to overcome procrastination and begin writing your stories
  • how to fend off the inner critic
  • how to identify core story ideas
  • how to painlessly organize your writing
  • how to conquer perfectionism

Make plans to stay after the workshop for wine, cheese, and good conversation. Registration in the amount of $35 per participant is required to reserve your seat for this event. I hope you join us. Register today because space is limited!


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