Stepping off the path most traveled to run through the flowers isn't always a bad thing.
When I began storytelling with photos and words, I did what most memory keepers did. I told my stories chronologically. I'd go back to my earliest photographs that hadn't become stories yet, compose stories from them, then address the next batch of earliest photos that hadn't become stories, and so on. Unfortunately, this approach had an unintended consequence. I grew to believe that I was falling behind on my storytelling hobby and that there wasn't much hope of catching up. Likewise, I allowed myself to believe that time was becoming more and more scarce. And, I didn't question these beliefs because I knew that other memory keepers shared them. I wasn't alone on this road.
Then, when I started homeschooling in 2012 , I was roughly five years behind on storytelling. Since homeschooling didn't leave much time for my hobby, I emerged from the effort with a backlog of 11 years. I wasn't homeschooling anymore, but I wasn't telling stories either—not with that backlog.
At first, I felt guilty for letting myself get so far behind. Next, I felt overwhelmed by the backlog. Then, I felt antsy because I wanted to tell my stories, but how would I find the time to make a dent in it all? It was frustrating and disappointing. But then, I took a step back to explore my actual intentions. Which made me realize that the hobby was really a way for me to:
- Observe and record our journey through life:
- To practice present moment awareness.
- As a mechanism to help me remember moments and experiences.
- So that I could reflect on things more deeply later—whenever and for whatever bubbled up.
- Tell my most meaningful stories.
- Create artful reminders of special moments.
- Remember experiences and moment rather than lose them.
Likewise, I realized the guilt, disappointment, and frustration wasn’t really about me, it was about the approach! Stories bubble up and grab our focus when they do—unfastened to any specific order. Since inspiration to create and my reflective focus weren't arriving in chronological order, why was I trying to force it? Also, while dealing with stories that didn’t matter much (but were in keeping with a chronological order), I was side-stepping my intention to tell my most important stories which sort of took away the joy of it all. Finally, the chronology thing was something I did because it's what you do—not because it served my intentions. In other words, taking that most traveled road wasn't working for me.
Once this realization sunk in, I decided to take more of a meandering path—a path unburdened by and oblivious to chronology; a path where the story blooms when it blooms. Then, feelings of guilt about a backlog turned into feelings of joy, connection, curiosity, and surprise as I reminisced and rediscovered things forgotten. Best of all, it began to feel like I had plenty of time to reflect and tell my important stories. Which made me feel a whole lot of gratitude and appreciation for the hobby again.
So what about you? Have you struggled with your storytelling approach in one way or another? How did you work your way through it?