The Story Behind the Story

Everyone has a story. That’s the theme of this website and the basis that guides every personal historian I know. And when people are ready, they tell their stories: in a private journal, through face-to-face conversations, or with the help of a professional memoir writer.

But what we don’t talk about often is the story behind the story.

What prompts someone to finally sit down and share? The specifics are as varied as the individual authors, but as a professional memoir writer myself, I do see some common themes.

Often the prompt isn’t something, but someone. A son or daughter, a grandchild, or someone else close makes the convincing case that a loved one’s story is worth telling. Maybe there is some prodding involved. A plea or two. But the story behind this story is clear: I am loved. And my family and friends want to preserve my journey.

Sometimes the prompt is a personal misfortune. A serious diagnosis or injury. A death in the family. One’s mortality—a vague notion never really contemplated—can no longer be denied and there is much to share. And an urgency to share it soon. The story here? Seize the day. Preserve memories, lessons learned, messages of love…before it’s too late.

Then there are the stories that are launched because of a joyous event. One’s triumph over tragedy—poverty, abuse, disease, hardship—should be celebrated and many want to share their recipe for success with others. The story behind this story is obvious and the writer cannot wait to put down their words: I survived! And you can too!

And finally there are those who need no prompt. They’ve wanted to write for years and the time is finally right. Experience, wisdom, and perspective have come together and they feel that sharing their journey through writing is something they simply must do. The story here? I have a valuable life story, and it’s time for me to tell it.

Whatever your prompt, listen closely to its call. Because the truth is every story, once written, contains all of these messages. Everyone will leave behind someone (or many someones) who will want their story preserved. Everyone should seize the day before it’s too late. Everyone has survived a hardship (or ten) and should share their secrets for survival.

And everyone has a valuable story to tell and should take the time to tell it.

Please let me know if you’d like my help.