It was one of those days when the Muse refused to appear. Nothing I wrote was right! Sitting before my keyboard, I struggled with writer’s block, staring blankly at the nearest wall.
Suddenly, a picture frame on that wall came into focus and I read the caption beneath the photo of an antique typewriter: “Write your own life story.” My eyes wandered to the opposite wall. There, another slogan, this one burned into a piece of pine board, arrested my attention: “Home is where your story begins.”
The combined statements simmered in my brain: Tell your story. Starting at home. But, then I wondered…who would want to read stories from MY life? But, I wrote a personal story anyway. I submitted it, and it was accepted. After I made several editor-requested revisions, she published the article. Since that time, I have written and sold numerous stories from my life. And you can, too!
Too often, we writers struggle with what we call writer’s block because we’re trying to tell someone else’s story. Sometimes, however, the key to our success lies in our own story. Prolific author Jesse Stuart (Taps for Private Tussie, Man With a Bull-Tongue Plow, numerous children’s books, and hundreds of sonnets) said that the best writing advice he ever received was from Donald Davidson, one of his Vanderbilt professors. “Go back to your people,” Davidson told him. “Go back and write of them. Don’t change and follow the moods of these times. Be your honest self. Go back and write of your country. Your country has your material.”
Stuart followed that advice and that’s when he became successful. I, too, followed Davidson’s advice and Stuart’s example, and I’ve now sold dozens of articles and a book (Look Unto the Hills) based on my personal experiences. No one else can write my story. It is my story to tell.
Read about and benefit from the lives of others but then go and write your own story. Jog your memory by looking through old family photos or scrapbooks. Visit neighborhoods where you once lived. You’ll soon discover that you, too, have stories to tell – stories that some editors would love to publish!
Revive those stories because they are uniquely yours. Only you can write your story and that story begins at your own back door. Jesse Stuart did it. I did it. And you can, too.
- My Memories Are Selling! (And Yours Will, Too!) By Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
- 8 Great Ways to Jog Your Memory for Creative Non-fiction Writing! by Julie Guirgis
- Regain The Wonder: Read Children’s Books For Creative Inspiration By Dawn Goldsmith
- My Writing Life Began at 60 By Suzanne G. Beyer
- Novelist’s Life Becomes Reality By Karin Gillespie
Dennis L. Peterson is an independent author and historian based in Taylors, SC. His articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Blue Ridge Country, Smoky Mountain Living, True West, and many others. He is the author of four books, including Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (McFarland, 2016).
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