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Simple Ways To Find The Story In Your Ordinary Day

There are stories all around you that you can learn to uncover.

Every day might feel much the same to you. If you've been living La Vida Lockdown then you most certainly understand that feeling. But, hidden within the seemingly ordinary are great and wonderful stories that need to be uncovered and told.

These stories may not be the epics tales of ancient Greece, or the blockbusters of Hollywood, but they may turn out to be equally as emotive and potentially as powerful.

These are the stories of you and me, and the little moments where a shift, a realisation, or a transformation takes place, and more often than not the stories that move, inspire and empower us are the most ordinary moments.

For several years now I have used a process I call my StoryFiles. I'm making it sound a lot more grandiose than it actually is, but I'm sticking with calling it a process nevertheless because it makes me feel more organised and sophisticated. For many years the 'process' simply involved writing in my journal at the end of each day, a simple paragraph to describe the moment in the day that was the most 'storyable' - to coin a brand new, and rather unpalatable, phrase.

The moment might be an event, an experience, a thought, an awakening or a realisation - anything that marked that particular moment as especially different than the day or days before. So, for example, even though I haven't left the house and have been in my office the entire day, my moment today would be:

The kids were playing in the kitchen. They were distracting me from writing. I was about to tell them to be quiet and then I heard them giggling and then they started laughing hysterically. They were happy and having fun together. I was too uptight. I want to laugh with them more. At times I am too serious.

I don't attempt to write it in perfect fluid prose. It's just important to capture the essence of the moment. With this example, there's a setting - the kitchen; there's a brief journey and transformation - going from uptight parent to relaxing and wanting to be less serious. It might not be a whole story in itself but there's potential there to craft something out of it - perhaps there are other moments in my journal that relate to this, or perhaps there's a moment from my own childhood that mirrors this, where maybe I was the giggling child and I got told off.

The important thing is to have a record of it so that if I referred back to it in the future this moment wouldn't be lost to me. That's why I started this process in the first place. I was horrified as to how many times a particular moment, that I was certain I would remember in the future, disappeared from my brain, potentially never to be found again. Now I have journals and journals filled with daily moments that will never be lost.

So, if you can get into the habit of recording a moment each day, you will soon start to see that it begins to change the way you look at each day. You start to look out at the world and see everything as a potential moment. Record them, jot them down. These moments will never be lost to you if you capture them, even more than that, the process of writing them down etches them further into your memory.

After several years of doing this practice, I stumbled across a great TED Talk by a guy called Matthew Dicks who was doing a similar process that he called his Homework For Life. Matthews process was a little bit more robust than mine, and he actually taught me to enter the daily moment into a spreadsheet so it is more searchable - and this has enhanced my process for definite. You can watch his talk below, it's a great watch, and he's a fantastic storyteller.

Now not all of these daily moments you enter into your journal or spreadsheet are going to be a worthwhile story in themselves. Sometimes something will happen in your day that is a perfect fully formed story in itself, but more often than not your daily moments will end up forming part of a larger story that grows steadily over time.

At this stage though the most important thing is to get into the habit of recording your moments and making this a daily ritual. Like anything good, it takes patience and persistence to start to develop the skill to procure one moment, insight, or event from an otherwise average day. You develop the ears and eyes to see and hear the world in a different way and to know what moment or moments need to be recorded.

Some days it will be a real struggle. You will be scraping the barrel of experiences somedays. I recently wrote an entry that simply read 'Opened a letter from the bank today. More bloody statements' Still, who knows where that entry might become relevant. I've since gone totally paperless with regards bank statements so maybe that was the last letter I'll ever physically receive from the bank. Unfortunately, I doubt it. The point was that I didn't miss an entry even though it must have been the most uneventful day possible; I still wrote something.

Other days there will be too much to write, and the discipline is to not write an essay but rather to record the moment as simply as possible. The habit would be hard to maintain if the mind thought it needed to write War And Peace every night. Less is more.

Keep the practice up. Keep believing. Most importantly keep looking and listening. It's often the subtlest of moments that sneak beneath our radar that make the most profound and powerful story elements.

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