What is your “personal mythology”? How can you tap into it, access the core of your beliefs, and unleash the energy to drive your novel or memoir?
I came up with the term “personal mythology” when I was teaching writing workshops in Seattle. I found the easiest way to teach techniques like characterization, setting, and theme is to have new writers start by evolving a non-traumatic childhood memory.
Each 8-week Art of Storytelling class began with participants summarizing on paper three memories from childhood.
“Don’t over-think it,” I told them. “Just the first three that pop into your head.” There was a reason they were remembering THOSE specific events. They were important. Relevant. “Trust your memory. Trust what comes up,” I told them. “Don’t judge it as too small, or too silly, or not cool enough.”
Why does a person have an intense memory of an event, and others in their family, neighborhood, or school cannot remember it? There is a reason, and it has to do with who the individual is and their path in this lifetime. The person must trust that memory. The event and its meaning holds gems.
In the workshops, I’d have participants pair up and share the stories. What a bonding experience! Sometimes I’d pair up an elderly woman with a tattooed young girl, always looking for ways for people to see their stories through completely different eyes.
I’d then have everyone choose one of the memories. We spent the remaining weeks developing it, using the basic building blocks of writing.
What I found over and over was that the remembered stories were like an acorn that encapsulated the entire DNA of the person’s life. Not just their lives as children, but their adult lives. As themes emerged in the writing of the stories, I found that the person’s deepest held beliefs would emerge. Each of these stories were full of pathos. AND each person would be surprised themselves by what they were uncovering. You can always tell good writing by how much it surprises and moves the writer!
I realized the exercise was tapping into the individual’s “personal mythology.” So much energy was locked inside these stories, just waiting to be let out. So much wisdom.
Try it. Pick a childhood memory you cannot get out of your head, a story you’ve told over and over through the years. Sit and write it. Now, evolve the characters in the story. Explore the setting. See what themes emerge. You’ll tap into a deep energy that could drive your writing for months, years, even decades. You’ll find out what’s really important to you. You might even find your purpose. This is the power of storytelling.
We offer a six-week e-course on this writing process with personal reviews of the story as it evolves. We also offer a free initial consultation for help with book projects. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.