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The Power of Story

Story has been a theme throughout my life. 

As a child I loved to read. Once I could read to myself, I used to hide under the covers reading “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” when I should be asleep. I have memories of reading Famous Five books in our caravan on wet days and getting all the Dr Dolittle books and the Chronicles of Narnia out of the local library. These were special books because they were big and hard backed, they felt grown up. There are so many books that have shaped my life, I’m not sure I could even begin to list them all. 

Not many people know that I wanted to be a librarian as a child as much as I wanted to be a teacher. I made little library cards and pockets for all my comics (Bunty and Beano) and would lend them to other children round the street. 

I spent 40 hours working in our local library when I did my Service Flash badge at Guides and I loved every minute; finding people’s cards when they returned books, putting the books back on the shelves, carefully using the Dewey decimal system, replacing damaged plastic covers… I loved everything about it. When it was time to make decisions about career paths in Y10 we did a strange exercise which involved colouring in tiny lozenge shapes with an HB pencil. We had to answer a wide range of questions about what we enjoyed and it would give us our perfect career choice. Mine came back with Librarian and Museum Curator. By then though I had discovered drama and neither seemed quite as exciting as working in a theatre. Once I had decided that the theatre wasn’t for me, teaching seemed like the obvious choice. I love children, I could stand confidently and present and most of my family were in education. 

Longing for stories

As the years have gone on though, I have realised how much I need writing and stories in my life. I still love reading, and recently started reading fiction again, after years of psychology textbooks and self help titles. I have also realised how important it is to me to write. Whether it is a social media post, blog, newsletter or the book I am currently writing, sharing stories is a huge part of who I am. I studied Theology for my degree and as part of the course we did Theology through film and literature. We learned about the importance of symbolism in stories and of course Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I was fascinated by how this story arch fit every popular story I knew. If you haven’t looked into the concept of the hero’s journey please do, it is fascinating, especially if you enjoy reading or films.

Sharing stories is a practice as old as language. As soon as we could communicate we began telling stories to explain things we didn’t understand and creating myths around creation, the weather and the seasons. We tell stories to make sense of the world, how we are feeling and reassure ourselves that everything will be ok. 

This is the power of story. 

Last week I shared that I was having a diffidult day on social media. It was far from the most difficult day I have ever had, but I had had a few disappointments and I needed a good cry. Without fail it was the most responded to post on any of my social media platforms last week and probably this year. When we read about other people’s lives, but particularly their challenges, we feel connected to that person. We feel reassured that we aren’t alone when we have struggles.

My author’s journey

Recently I started writing my first book. It is going to be a memoir and, even though I am only a little more than half way through the first draft, it is proving to be cathartic. I am having to relive some very difficult times and am sharing things that even some of my family don’t know about. I have cried a lot while writing but I know that if my story is having that effect on me, when I lived through it and know what happens in the end, then it is going to be a powerful read – well, I hope so anyway!

Kate retreat

At the start of the month I went away for a few days to make a start on writing my first draft. I knew that to really get a good start I needed to remove any distractions; housework, work for Calmer Classrooms, etc. My in-laws have a static caravan in Devon so I asked whether I could go for a few days to write and do some planning. They were a little worried about me going by myself but I reassured them that I would be super sensible and, honestly I hardly left the caravan. I popped into Okehampton a couple of times to visit a beautiful bookshop I discovered, Dogberry and Finch, and apart from that I went for a walk to find this beautiful secluded church (St Michaels, Brentor) but other than that, I wrote. I wrote and wrote and when I came home I had completed five chapters and had the framework for the whole book mapped out.

Since I got home I have set aside time every week to write a little more. One day it will be finished and then who knows what will happen next. I believe it is a powerful story, but then I would, it’s my story. Whatever happens to it though I will always be so glad that I had the opportunity to write it all out. It has been really therapeutic. 

Writing in all its forms is incredibly healing. If you have ever written a diary, filled in a gratitude journal or written morning pages you will know how deeply cleansing this form of writing can be. I have been journaling and writing in my gratitude journal for many years now and writing my articles and blogs is also therapeutic for me. I will definitely be consciously incorporating more writing and word work into my work with clients, and my own daily practice, from now on. Do you have something you need to write out today? Perhaps something you need to tell someone or something you need to work out. Grab a pen and some paper and start writing. You won’t regret it!

Journaling

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