We think stories are fictional whereas they’re anything but….
A story is an account of something, an event, a tale, a narrative that sensibly outlines a topic. Stories are more than that, regardless of whether they are fictional or not they depict something far greater in every one of us; they depict our mindsets.
I have been crafting stories for the past two years (a little over…), stories from people on how an incurable diagnosis changed their life for the better. This might sound odd but I can never tell what genre these stories fall under, are they fiction because they talk about the things you don’t normally see outside aka reality or are they non-fiction even though they are not entirely objective as journalism would dictate? They fall between the crux of stories where possibilities are born, a story that requires you to take a leap into new worlds that you never thought existed.
These are all real stories mind you told by real people except they are crafted by you, to speak in a narrative that began as Chronically Driven. What happens when you ask a chronically ill person to talk about all the wonderful things in their lives? That was the motivation behind the experiment which now sustains my entire life, I would very much be lost without the stories because they give my own life a new meaning. To aspire for greater things, to become better and to envision a more inclusive world where my efforts to make invisible diseases more visible is rendered obsolete.
What I Have Learnt After Two Years of Storytelling
Every email/message/tweet begins with one such line:
Hi, I love Chronically Driven and wish I could write my story however I have nothing nice to say about my illness
If you’re thinking this then trust me, you have a story in you. I always smile with joy every time I get this (which happens several times through the day, lucky me!) because for the very fact that you decided to tell me that you don’t have a story implies that you do. It just needs to be pulled out of you.
You never know your own story especially when you’re living it. This holds true for 99% of people who write to me. Because when we’re busy living we forget to realise the amazing tale unfolding that is our lives.
The first step to figuring out your story is to write down everything that you do, even the seemingly-meaningless things; write down that you have to shower at 10am every morning because you can’t get out of bed any earlier, write down that you make a living in ways that the rest of the world can’t even imagine and write down the fact that you have fewer friends because the ones who are still with you after the diagnosis are the most meaningful ones.
Secondly, the Shakespearian model of every narrative having a beginning, middle & end is not only archaic but uninspiring. It might be great for plays but not for the intricately bound life of a spoonie which is far more interesting. Your story does not have an ending or a conclusion and that is what makes it so amazing. Everyone I work with in telling their story always worries about the end; but what if I don’t feel this way tomorrow or next year and what about leaving these as the last words? This story, this day and even this lifestyle is momentary, to feel happily settled with the idea of your story as an evolving organism of it’s own is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Because then it is merely intriguing when you have bad days to see where that takes you. You are no longer fighting your illness but learning to talk to it and communicate with it to see where it could take you.
A lot of people say it’s not the destination that matters but the journey but the stories have proven that it’s not even the journey, just because you have had a few bad days or weeks or even bad year(s) doesn’t mean your life sucks. It’s the motivations behind the stories that matter the most, I am absolutely fine with having a bad day and being stuck at home if that means I get to sit and write posts like this or maybe even just spend the day watching Netflix. How you react to your diagnosis is far more significant than what is actually happening. The stories range from a marathon runner who gets Lyme Disease & becomes a children’s author or an artist with Crohn’s who uses his decades of living with it to inspire his work. All of these people chose to react differently to their diagnosis.
The Secret to Good Stories
Actually it’s not even only restricted to those of us living a chronic lifestyle, all of us are reiterating a story to ourselves but what are you telling yourself everyday? The human mind speaks about 50,000 words a day in form of self-talk (National Science Foundation) so you’re reading yourself a novel every single day, which story are you picking?
You cannot write a good story if you’re not telling yourself one, whatever is going on in your mind is what comes out on the paper or in this case, your life whether we like it or not. There is no secret recipe for writing your best story but there is a process for crafting your story and that’s called living.