Self Stories writing workshops

Self Stories Writing Workshop Training Tools

watch the video. stream or download.Our Purpose

Writing stories about your life isn’t always easy. Even if you have a story in mind, sometimes putting words to paper can be intimidating, tiring, frustrating, or unproductive. Many times people feel the need to begin at the beginning, either with stories they’ve heard surrounding their birth or with the first memories they recall, and write all the way up until the present, accounting for all of the paths and people they’ve encountered along the way. The main purpose of the Self Stories© workshop is to help make writing about the experiences, people and events that have made people who the are something that is easy, enjoyable and productive. These “self stories” do not need to be connected or address every developmental point or monumental experience in one’s life. They do not need to form a coherent connection between past and present. They do not need to be well written, free from grammatical mistakes, exciting, sad, funny, or compelling. They do not even need to be written for others to read. Instead, these stories can take the form of memoirs, letters, journals, poems, third-person stories – any type of writing that helps put an experience, thought or memory into words.

The main purpose of the Self Stories workshop is to help make writing about the experiences, people, and events that have made people who the are something that is easy, enjoyable and productive.

The workshop is structured so that over the course of eight weeks, workshop participants are tasked with a writing assignment and are then invited to read their completed work aloud to the group for feedback. Along the way, participants learn about choices that affect the quality and readability of their writing, but writing itself is not the main purpose. Rather, Self Stories© is meant to help people reflect on the past, engage in the present, accept new challenges and, through the act of sharing their work, connect with others.

Reflect on the Past

When we write about our lives, we select and connect certain events that seem to form a story. We look for causes and effects, and we reflect upon our actions and the resulting consequences. We seek to identify the people and events that influenced our decisions. Rather than being bystanders to whom life dealt this or that destiny, we assume an active role in our written work. Crafting our experiences into stories can help us make sense of our lives. When we think deeply about what we write, we often discover, as Robert Frost said, something we “didn’t know we knew.” The act of trying to get it right on the page, trying to be true and fair to everyone involved, can sometimes reveal things we never understood before.

Engage in the Present

The stories we choose to tell are often ones we think others want from us, based on the role we play in their lives, or based on what society deems significant. For example, many people describe themselves to friends, family and new acquaintances by what they did for a living, through the families they’ve raised, or by the places they’ve been. Although these are certainly important, there are many sometimes small things that have had a big influence on who we are and that never get told. These are the the small moments and interactions that changed us, for better or for worse, and these are the stories that comprise our sense of self.

Accept New Challenges

Being part of a writing workshop requires a degree of dedication and flexibility. Members of the group are asked to meet weekly deadlines, and to provide feedback to their fellow participants. This is not to say that the workshops aren’t fun. (They absolutely are!) But they also require people to be willing to experiment with new forms of expressing themselves, to listen and respond to the stories that others have written, and sometimes to feel a bit vulnerable in the process.

Connect with Others

On an individual level, participating in a writing group can provide a meaningful outlet. On a group level, engaging with others in a way that encourages dialogue can also foster a sense of community. Over the course of the workshop, members become more comfortable with each other and, as they do, they often begin to think deeply about their writing . They also often form friendships and unique bonds with others, folks they may or may not have known before the workshop. There is power in being part of a collective group with shared interests and goals and in sharing stories about one’s self with others.

What is Not Our Purpose

(or, Common Misinterpretations of Self Stories©)

It is important to know from the onset that the purpose of Self Stories© is not to focus on people with interesting experiences such as world travel, exciting jobs, brushes with fame, or other publicly noteable events. (These stories are certainly welcome, as all stories are welcome.) Instead, the purpose is to capture those small moments that make us who we are. The assumption of Self Stories© is that everyone’s life is interesting and worth telling about, even if you’ve never left the town where you grew up. Self Stories© is not about telling the best or the funniest stories. It’s about capturing the simple acts that make us human. This is done by using different forms (literary genres) of story writing to move away from the typical types of stories told in traditional memoirs, autobiographies, or life stories. Another thing that Self Stories© is not is a workshop designed to help people write an autobiography or a lengthy life narrative. Instead, it is purposefully designed to introduce participants to different ways that they can write about their experiences by experimenting with different literary genres (e.g., letters, poems) and devices (e.g., description, dialogue). Having a range of literary tools allows participants to find a comfortable distance or closeness to the stories they want to tell, not just what they think others want to hear.

Finally, the workshop is not meant to help individuals become better writers per se, although that often happens as participants become more comfortable with language. In other words, this is not a composition class. The primary focus is on the story that is revealed through writing rather than on the writing itself. Therefore, participants ranging from having no writing experience to having written professionally are all appropriate.