Two weeks ago, I challenged readers to pull out their old journals and find the yet untold stories within them. I hope that some of you did just that! Were you surprised by what you found in those journal pages? Were you able to find common threads from one year to the next? Were you able to pinpoint some "ah-ha" moments in your writings? You know what I mean, those times when just as you finish a thought on the page, it suddenly all makes sense...Times when the words on the page are no longer just words but rather revelations.
This week, I'm going to propose yet one more challenge for your old journals -- searching for the forgotten details in those journal entries and crafting new versions of old stories -- ones that rely on your original eyes to see with new insight and understanding.
In her delightful book A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, Hannah Hinchman writes "We commonly truncate and emblam real memories by turning them into stories told the same way each time: 'that was when the rooster chased me.' As the story becomes more ritualized in the telling, actual sensatons are forgotten. Revisit the experience with your original eyes and search for forgotten details."
Hinchman goes on to say "The last couple of decades have taught us to think of our childhoods largely as something to recover from, whether we are afflicted with low self-esteem, memories of abuse, or othe troubles. As a result, most of us have assembled a cache of story-memoires that sum up or "explain" our early years; many of them amount to a kind of revisionist histroy, taking on the spin and interpretation of the times. Such scrutiny is valid, but it leaves out too much." She suggests "a series of written entries, revisiting childhood and adolescence, that will form a different portrait: the you that lived on the ground under the sky."
So, here's your challenge for the next couple of weeks: Go back to your journal entries - or, taking it one step further, pull out a life story you wrote a while back -- and see if you can rework it in such a fashion that you are no longer sharing what Hinchman refers to as "story-memory." See if you can tap into what you were really feeling in that moment. Conjure up the smells, sights, sounds and tactile sensations of the experience and make them come alive for yourself and potential readers. Put yourself (or your reader) into that moment in a very real way. Feel and then show the time of day, the weather, the moods of those around you, the colors and scents of your surroundings...and then incorporate all of that rich detail into your newly crafted story. Watch and listen as your story becomes more you than ever before. Be amazed at how much emotion you can stir up by doing so. And then, sit back and wait for more insights to come your way -- now that you've tapped into a wellspring of lifestories -- your lifestories. Use your words (and newly found forgotten details) to paint a new self-portrait.