Hey there! Hope you're enjoying your storytelling journey so far.
I created this bonus resource for readers of Share Your Story, would would like a little extra help creating their own story arcs.
As mentioned, your story arc doesn't have to fit a defined set of steps. The steps I outlined are meant to be a guideline, but they're not carved in stone.
Here they are again:
Starting point. What did you think, feel or do at the beginning of your journey? What was happening in your life at that time?
Defining moments. What was the moment that changed everything? What happened? How did you think or feel in that moment?
Action. What decisions or actions did you take that changed things? Why were they significant?
Outcomes. What were the results? What did you learn? How has this story changed things for you and/or others?
Next steps. What’s happening next? Where are you going from here? What are you still working on?
The following stories use some variation of this story arc. I chose these examples, kindly shared my family and friends, as a way to show how a story arc can be used to tell a short personal story.
Feel free to draw inspiration from these examples. But feel free to do things completely differently, too.
This is about you telling your story. I'm just here to help you write it.
A story by Summer Innanen about healing & recovery
--> The Starting Point <--
“Several years back, I experienced the worst period of stress of my life. I was working a full-time job, starting this business, going to school at night, working a part-time job on the side, exercising like crazy and being a food-control freak. I required a pot of coffee to speak in full sentences.
I thought I was an overachieving ‘health nut', but I was actually burning myself into the ground. I eventually became so frustrated that my body was gaining weight despite my rigid militant ways that I went to see a Naturopath who I had to ‘get real’ with.
I gave her a rundown of my symptoms: not sleeping well, no period, libido of a robot, frequent meltdowns for unnecessary circumstances (such as forgetting to buy almond butter or losing a sock in the dryer) and relating more to feeling like an emoji turd than a human.
To me, my symptoms didn't seem that bad because I was so possessed by my perfectionist ways that I was completely out of touch with what my body was actually feeling.
She looked at me and said, “I’m actually surprised you’re alive right now.”
My hormones were completely muddled and it all resulted from one thing: stress. So much unnecessary stress.
After a few tests, she diagnosed me as being in the final stage of adrenal fatigue.
--> The Defining Moment <--
That was when the universe kicked me in the ass and sent me the message that I needed to stop. Stop working so much. Stop pushing so hard. Stop exercising so much. Stop restricting food. In other words, chill the F out.
I had beaten my body into submission and the only way out was for me to make radical changes to my lifestyle.
--> The Action <--
First, I broke down and cried. This is not news that anyone wants to hear, right.
But I made a decision pretty quickly that I was done beating myself up. Done. It was time to do things differently.
This meant making tough choices every day. I had to choose each day to rest instead of going to the gym. I had to choose each day to eat more food than I was used to. I had to choose to be satisfied with ‘good enough’ instead of the A+ performance I naturally sought for.
These might sound easy but in my headspace, it was difficult work. It took courage and inner strength I didn’t know I had at the time. But I trusted myself – and the support team I had around me -- and those daily practices brought me back to my happy-go-lucky, optimistic, delightfully weird self.
--> The Outcome <--
The recovery period required me to make some big changes that felt really uncomfortable at the time. But in they end, they turned me onto a path that is about being me and living my life to the fullest – and helping women discover body acceptance and live their best lives. How awesome is that?
--> Next Steps <--
This doesn’t mean that all my problems have gone away. Hell, no. I’m still a human being. I still work too hard sometimes. I still have days when I hear that critical voice inside my head. In fact, now I see it as a gift – it’s a barometer for how I’m doing, cautioning me when I need to slow down and spend a little time on me.
I am eternally grateful for those words "I'm surprised you're alive." They did much more than save my life.
They made my life worth living.
A story by Megan DePutter about letting go
--> The starting point <--
"Moving house is, for many people, an opportunity to pair down, re-evaluate one’s belongings and perhaps get rid of a few things. But moving intercontinentally presents a different kind of challenge.
My husband and I moved to Glasgow this summer. In doing so, I left behind my family, job, community - and most of my possessions. Moving overseas meant making some hard decisions, including what to bring with us, and this led to a process of questioning the value of what we own.
Not only were we moving from a large house in Kitchener, Ontario, to a tiny flat in Glasgow, we were also faced with the enormous cost of shipping. Transferring any goods from Canada to the United Kingdom would require renting part of a container traveling on a ship across the ocean; the costs being, as one might imagine, astronomical. For each item I owned I needed to ask not just, “do I love it?” but, “do I love it enough to ship it across an ocean?”
As we assessed the contents of our house, I found myself considering competing values for each object: financial value (how much I paid for the item), use value (the item’s usefulness), replacement value (how much I might have to pay to replace it), and its “true love value” (how much I loved the item, regardless of any of the other factors). In some cases, the financial value might be low, but its use value or replacement value might be high. Or vice versa. At times the questions became so confusing I felt I needed an algorithm to help me figure out what to bring and what to leave behind.
It was easiest for me to say yes to the items on the “true love value” scale, regardless of whether or not they provided much use - these were the items I just knew I wanted to bring. As the items on my “to-ship” list started to grow, I began to fear that I would find myself in a new apartment, surrounded by my sea shells, Star Trek collectibles, and other curiosities, wondering why I brought such useless items when I have a kitchen, living room, bed and bathroom that need furnishing.
Not all decisions made sense. Why was I bringing cheap, used dish towels when I was getting rid of that expensive cutting board? Why did I ship that bottle of body wash when I let go of that ceramic fruit bowl? At a certain point I abandoned looking for logical consistency in my decisions.
While these decisions were unsettling, perhaps the greatest difficulty was in coming to terms with my own attachment to the items I would leave behind, and unweaving my personal history from the stuff that surrounded me. Many items contained a memory, and whether it was a time of hope, disappointment, pain, struggle, triumph or celebration, it was a memory - and that made it difficult to let go.
Sifting through the contents of my house, I was confronted with the skeletons of my past. There were the files - the receipts for all the work I’d had done on my back as I struggled to resolve my chronic pain; there were the photographs, of the relationship that I thought would last forever but ended abruptly. There were all the items I purchased after that break-up, to create a home for myself that provided peace, and comfort, by and for myself, as my only caretaker.
Unknowingly, I had attached myself to the things I owned by reflecting my own memories and identities upon them. I struggled most not with letting go of expensive or fancy things, but with the items I had collected during times of change or difficulty - like the little reading table I bought at a thrift store for $20 when I was newly single and struggling financially. The reading table, with its attached little lamp, became a source of comfort and light in dark times - and a symbol of my independence and inner strength.
Many of us dream of simplicity. In a world where our lives are cluttered (with both mental and physical clutter), simplicity and clarity are treasured ideals. “Letting go” is an oft cited phrase, but a frequently unrealized dream. Being forced to literally let go became an opportunity to separate my self from my stuff.
--> Defining moment <--
One of the more difficult things to let go of was my collection of “craft supplies,” a term I use loosely to describe a collection of scavenged bits of felt and fabric, half-used bottles of glitter glue, colourful pictures cut out from magazines, scraps of ribbons saved from gifts and buttons collected for years. They were bits and pieces I’d salvaged here and there, that together made up a colourful collection I employed to make greeting cards or other projects. When I paused to reflect on why an ad hoc collection of scavenged items meant so much to me, I realized that the craft collection was an example of my own creativity and resourcefulness; it was my way of finding value in the discarded and making it into something new. These were skills that allowed me to survive and even thrive in difficult times.
I knew that no matter how treasured, I couldn’t justify shipping bits of felt or magazine cut-outs to Glasgow, and that the craft collection would have be left behind.
But my resourcefulness and creativity were skills I had developed as a child and cultivated as an adult, and they weren’t going anywhere; in fact, I would need them more than ever to adapt to a new country.
That realization became a turning point: I could let go of everything in the house, and I would still be me.
--> Action <--
The felt and the buttons would not come, and neither would the table, nor would most of my other belongings. I was leaving them behind.
--> Next step <--
But my resourcefulness and creativity would be the first to arrive.
A story by Nancy DePutter about Getting Older
--> The starting point <--
I’m turning 60 in a few days. I laughed at my husband a couple years ago when he was ruminating about his 60th birthday. He looked over his glasses and said - 'just wait'. How right he was. No doubt about it, I've had my share of angst over mine too. But lately there's something else that's shown up too, something quite unexpected.
--> Defining moment <--
Today I was in the gym and happened to go into the activity room where they hold classes. It was empty but I could pick a video of a class and 'do it yourself'. "Great!" I thought. "Love the idea- a whole studio to myself"! I walked up to the machine, picked a dance class, (one I used to be quite good at). A big screen rolled down and it began. The intro music filled the room, I felt excited, ready to rock! And then...
Oh-My-God. Where did that woman go who could dance with the best of them? Along with Elvis, 'she had left the building'. And who was this imposter, flailing around, completely out of sync with the music and movement- tripping over her two left feet?! I tried to convince myself no one was looking through the windows into that room and laughing, but let me tell you, I was well OUT of my comfort zone. After a good try I turned the damn thing off, grabbed my stuff and whatever dignity that remained, and headed for home.
--> Action <--
Instead of feeling sorry for myself (for very long, anyway), I re-framed the experience. I took a step back and said to myself: hey, I SHOWED UP.
I might even be back, and who knows, maybe even get a little better with practice.
No, I’m not the dancer I once was, nor the runner, nor the writer, or philosopher. My ass has gone south and it ain’t coming back. I have all kinds of weird health stuff going on, and I do the stupidest things, way more than I’d like to admit.
But I have learned the value of showing up, being present, and giving things my all.
--> Next steps <--
And what I’m determined to do, through whatever comes next, is keep SHOWING UP. I don’t know what that’s going to look like in the future, but for now, I’m going to shake my booty to that dance video, and dream about all the different things I love to do- or have yet to do.
This is such precious time and more than ever I want to embrace it.
Yes, being 60 has many rewarding qualities that I wouldn’t trade for that firm little butt, or smug confidence. But it also reminds me that I will never be younger than I am today, so I better take this able body into the next decade with gratitude and joie de vivre.
Now- where did I put those sky diving lessons? I need to find my glasses first.