Recently, I returned from teaching for the TV Writers Summit in London and the TV Writers Studio in Australia. These trips symbolized the beginning of a dream that I set for myself five years ago. I wanted to teach story on a global level as a way to stop isolation and create community through the revelation of story. Story is the common thread that bonds us. It is when we reveal parts of our true selves that we connect with others. Understanding our personal stories also helps fuel us in our professional goals. I knew what I wanted to accomplish with these trips. The question was, how did I plan to create community through being a part of these story seminars? Well, I took a tool with me that stemmed from an experience at one of my very first seminars. It is called "Log Line for Your Life."
A "Log Line for Your Life" is essentially a life summary of story arcs in your life. The formula for writing this is made up of who (create empathy), dilemma, action, a goal and a twist of irony. By doing this exercise over the years, I found that large rooms of strangers would become immediate friends when they heard each give a log line for their life. The reason for this is because your log lines often reveal a universal truth. Your universal truth is what connects you to others.
I would start by explaining the exercise. Then, I'd tell them that they could write an internal or an external log line or one that encompasses both. I'd share some log lines that I've written for my life. One of my latest internal log lines is about my mom. "A saddened and distraught daughter, plagued by the thought of her mom's illness, must learn to calm down some of the busyness of her mind in order to be in the moment and see the beauty of the present before the time is past." I would then give them a break and ask them to start formulating their thoughts. Seeing them voraciously write down their stories is one of the greatest rewards of this experience.
I find in my teaching that when I reveal something personal about myself, it helps people to open up. So, after revealing three of my personal log lines, I found that in both London and Australia, people opened up. They really got into the exercise and into the idea of crafting their personal stories in a way that could connect them with their professional goals. I heard themes come out in their stories that were no different from the stories that I hear here. I heard stories of death, divorce, addiction, mental illness, accidents, suicide as well as successes and joy. In the midst of the stories involving loss, I'd often hear a light that was found as a result of it. There was one particular story that touched me and brought me to tears. It was by a guy in Australia who was in a wheel chair and in his 30s. His log line involved telling the story of his accident resulting from playing rugby that happened 10 years before and how after his accident he really got to know what was in his mind and in his heart. It is moments like this that help us all to see the true power of the human spirit and the gift of experiencing that the revelation of story brings us together and unites us no matter where we are.
My intention behind using this tool in my story seminars is to connect the writer with their inner truth so that they begin to see that their key to success lies inside their "well" where the memories of life experiences exist. By learning to detach from your story and being able to see it from an outside point of view, you begin to gain perspective in a new way. I have found that it opens people up to see that they have many more stories inside than they ever imagined. They begin to see that their approach toward story expands.
What did I discover about the stories that people have in other countries? Our stories may feel different but our emotions are the same. We are united by the stories of our failures just as much, if not more, than our successes. There is no shame in loss or failing. It is the pursuit that follows that defines your story.
Our personal narratives carry tremendous value in our professional pursuits. We just have to know how to tap into them. By using our personal stories to motivate our professional pursuits, we gain even more momentum in moving toward our destination. By doing this, we fuel our life pursuits and find our purpose in the process.