Women's History Month: Writing Our Own Stories Word by Word
Who have you told your story to? Have you written it down? Have you published it? Have you sat across a table from someone and told it to someone? These questions have been swirling around in my head since I found out that the theme of this year's National Women's History Month is "Writing Women Back Into History."
I've always found other women's stories fascinating. It wasn't a complete surprise that I decided to study history in university, nor was it a surprise that I found myself drawn to studying the bits that had to do with women's stories.The lives of women, for far too long, were considered not worthy of publication. Now we yearn for those histories. We dig through letters and diaries. We study them. We publish them. We raise the cry for more and then start digging again.
But while we are digging, reading and adding the women of the past into the histories where they belong, we cannot forget our own stories. Our stories are tomorrow's history.
I think many of us mean to write our words, as Chris put it, but like Chris we find the time slips by us faster than we can blink.
So many times I have things I want to write about. I write things in my mind. And then the time never materializes to write them down.
The hours that the kids are at school I had thought would stretch before me like an endless expanse, but they are now filled. With what exactly, I don’t pretend to understand. But I know that most days I look up from whatever it is I am doing and there is 30 minutes left before the kids come bounding in the front door.
I do that. I'll sit down to write and something else (SHINY!) will distract me. The next thing I know, it's two hours later. It's like when you go on vacation you dream of all the things that you are going to do, but at the end of the week you've done none of them and you wonder what you did with all that time. I don't want to find myself 10 years from now wondering what I did with all that time. Right now I can tell you that I am living it, but will I remember how I spent those 10 years? Will you?
We're blessed with the ability to share our lives via technology. Our stories are immediately publishable thanks to blogs. We can share them with someone in the same city that we've never met or someone half way around the world. I know this, and yet for the most part I'm not really doing it.
Sometimes I'll start writing something but the words won't come out right, so I stop. I hit that stupid "x" and choose to close without saving. I don't carry around an index card and pencil like Anne Lamott suggests for when thoughts and stories appear in my head. I don't switch over to a new window and and type a couple of sentences. I take pictures but don't do anything with them.
I'm not telling my own story.
When I think of the women who are participating in the University of Guelph's Human Library project I feel I need to do better. These women are sitting down across from strangers and telling them their stories. If they can have the courage to do that I can certainly put my fingers to the keyboard and hammer out a story about the small, but important, things in my life. Maybe it's a moment. Maybe it's a person I see on the bus. Maybe something triggers a memory of a funny story from my past. These stories bubble up all the time, and I waste them.
I'm trying harder. I'm saving drafts instead of hitting the x. I'm grabbing my iPhone and creating a new note or snapping a photo. That's all it takes to get started.
Writing is a muscle I have to exercise if I want to share my story. I need to remind myself that my story is not big and it does not have to be. I need to remind myself that my life is lived in the in-between moments. The big moments and the celebrations, are benchmarks but the in-between moments are where my life is lived. They are the little things that I want to remember ten years from now. Maybe it's that day that we took off on an impromptu road trip. Maybe it's the day we walked by the river. Maybe it's the day I found my childish enthusiasm and jumped in puddles. Maybe it's the day I sat in the sun and thought that I write better when I write in a sunbeam.
These are the things I don't want to forget. It's not about writing the big stories, or writing anything perfectly. These small, inconsequential moments that when gathered together form my story are what I want to remember tens years from now. To do this I have to put my fingers to the keyboard and type it out, word by word.
Further reading on writing our own stories:
My journal entries grow shorter as I age. It isn't that I have nothingto say. It's that time has taught me more succinct ways of sharing my thoughts, ideas, and my dreams.
Bedlam Farm on being on your own hero's journey, much like the character in a favorite author's book:
I came to this farm on a hero’s journey, to find myself, leave a life of emptiness and unhappiness and here I encountered storms, animals, farmers, dangers, loneliness and the most severe disconnection. I nearly perished under the weight of it. But like some Campbell characters, I was fortunate. I found magical helpers – dogs, cows, donkeys, pastors, friends, a lover – and I resumed the journey, giving rebirth to life.
Pomegranates and Paper on the importance of writing our stories, and the urgency we feel to do so as we age:
All of it is just sheer pleasure, and yet also, the passion of my life, which is to fashion my world by words, to write my life as I live it, to tell myself the story of who I am.
Writing My Life is a blog that JHS has dedicated to telling her story. She posts writing prompts each Friday.
BlogHer's Creative Writing group discusses voice, skills, publication, and weekly writing prompts.