Two fun ways to re-write your self-limiting stories.
There’s a little writer in your head right now trying to make sense of the world around you, and your place in it.
That little storyteller is hard at work. He/she keeps absorbing feedback and information and trying to place it within the current story.
Ahh, so that’s the way the world is.
That’s what I’m all about.
Here’s how I fit into all this.
Like any writer, the storyteller’s preference is to add to the current story, rather than wipe everything out.
For example, if your inner storyteller has been writing you as the victim your whole life, it can feel pretty uncomfortable to go back to the beginning and re-write the main character not as a victim, but as a champion.
You can hardly blame your inner storyteller for wanting to hang on to those old stories.
But like all stories, sometimes our personal stories need editing. Sometimes they need major re-writes. Sometimes they need to be crumpled up and tossed out and started again from scratch.
If you’re tired of being told the same stories about yourself, try these two techniques.
They require a little creativity – and that’s what makes them so great.
Before we get started, consider this a reminder that those internal stories telling you that “you can’t” (or "you aren’t" or "you shouldn’t" or "you won’t")… are just stories.
And in fact, they're kinda crappy stories.
Life is too short to waste your time on bad fiction.
Especially when you're the main character.
Luckily, stories can be re-written any time.
Let’s start now.
1) Embrace your role as the editor-in-chief.
Personal stories are dynamic. They are contextual. They are just creative material for you to work with.
Imagine that you are the editor-in-chief.
You direct the storyteller.
That comes with a certain amount of responsibility.
Be critical of the stories that are handed across your desk. By that I don’t mean judgmental, I mean thoughtful. Think about them carefully. Be a skeptic of the stories you receive.
Consider this: Are you getting the kinds of stories you want to see? Are they accurate? Are they helpful? Does the storyteller need some new direction?
The editor’s job is to look at work from different angles. When a story about yourself (“I can’t do that,” or “I’m not good enough,” for example), it’s your job as editor to take a second look.
When a story is making you feel hurt, incapable, overwhelmed or not good enough, try thinking about it from a new angle.
Could you see some hilarity in the sadness? Some heroism in the loss? Some light in the dark?
In the story that feels big and complex, could you find some simple truth?
Write down what you are feeling. Put words to the story that is going on almost subconsciously. If you can turn it into a sentence or two (or a whole bunch), it becomes easier to pass along to the editor.
Then it’s up to Editor You.
Play around. Mark it up with your red pen. Give that internal storyteller some direction.
2) Practice re-writing your stories in unexpected ways.
This is a fun, hands-on practice.
Try your own version of “Exercises in Style,” a book written in 1947 by French author Raymond Queneau, in which a short, mundane story was written in 99 different ways.
(For a modern example, check out 99 Ways to Tell a Story in which cartoonist Matt Maddon applies his comic-strip style to the concept.)
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to re-write your story 99 times. This is the short version.
Take one scenario - something that happened that you consider part of “your story”. It might be a few lines or a paragraph.
Write it simply - where you were, what happened, how you felt, and the outcome.
Now try writing the story again with a different take.
Try writing the story as...
• A comedy
• A romance
• A soapy drama
• An adventure
You can add or remove different details as you see fit, as long as they’re all part of the true story.
This practice involves sitting down and actively writing. That might take a little discipline. But it’s also a great excuse to break out of daily routine and do something creative.
What do you come up with?
Can you make yourself laugh?
Challenge yourself to see the story in a completely different light?
Or even just make a simple tweak to a scenario you’re dealing with, to feel a little bit more positive?
You are both the writer and the editor of your own story.
Embrace the re-writes. They’re the best part.