As I write my book on personal storytelling (and Phuket was great to give me some major headway), I was thinking about our foundation or source of storytelling and my blog posts. Where do my stories/blog posts come from? When I think I have exhausted my thoughts, another one emerges like candy from a Pez dispencer. Often times I sit and a nugget pops to mind and then I build on it and it grows into a full blown story. When it strikes, my thoughts just flows out like a broken dam. I have to keep writing till I get it out of my system or exhausted the thoughts (much like I am doing now at a Starbucks in Bangkok)
I had a realization that there is a single base where my stories emerge from and that also applies to you. That resource is as simple as our memories. We have many forms of memories. The childhood ones that offer comfort to us as days that we took silly risks and our innocence. There are also the memorable events such as graduation, marriage birth or, sadly, a death. Memories can also be people that we hold on to dearly. We also keep those sentimental physical memories that I call artifacts like a photograph, ring, letters…etc. Just one look at an artifact and it showers you with many thoughts. These are just samples of our personal bank of stories; however, we sometimes don’t really pay attention to what is going on in the present and what should have been a memory is lost. It is about going through life with your eyes open and grasping at what the world provides. Keep the thoughts as nuggets and attach a story to it so that you can file it away for the future. Those nuggets are what I call trigger points. You don’t have to remember or recall the stories every day but rather hold on to those trigger points so that your story is attached to it. It is no different than having your mind work like a camera and capture an image.
Let me provide an example. When I was 16, I was in England – August 1978 and I still recall the top three hits were: Commodores – Three Times a Lady; Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring and Boney M – Rivers of Babylon. I kept these as my triggers because by these simple thoughts, it opens up a wider memory of my trip and the things we did and the people we met. Any time I hear any of those songs, I get nostalgic. We would sit on the stone wall in England, listen to the tunes and talk, laugh and create some great memories with cousins and friends. The songs help me to remember the finer details because the memories are imbedded in the trigger.
Another example that is very vivid was getting off the plane in Fiji (my first trip there) when I was 18. As soon as they opened the doors to the plane, I was hit by the heat and a distinct smell that I never experienced – sugar cane. It was a beautiful smell at 3:00am that I can still sense as I close my eyes and it opened up an entire trip where I have vivid memories of sitting and listening to the rustling palm trees while the overhead fan was whirling, going to town to watch a movie or discovering a secluded beach that we called our own by the MOTWS- Men of the World Society.
Take the time to appreciate what is around you, the people who are in your circle, the items you hold from an experience. These will serve you well when it comes time to convert them into stories. These triggers become your zip-drive to unlock memories. It would be rather difficult to try and hold all those stories in your mind but the triggers are what recall your memory. It is easy to say but how do you make the memories into trigger points? Reflection. Rather than going through life on the go, take a bit of time each day to appreciate what happened and as you encounter situations, things or people, attach a single meaning to the experience. This starts stockpiling your memories. Experience it, think about it, capture it and keep it…that is a solid process. Before you know it, you will have a databank of memories like I do and that is worth writing about. Be sure to take the virtual lens cap off before you capture your internal memories.
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