Story and Why
the Olympic Gold in Your Life Story
How life story writing is much
like training and competing in the Olympic Games
Article by Tom Gilbert - ©
Another Summer Olympic
Games is about to begin. This time London
is the host for the 2012 gathering. I’ve been thinking about
the Olympics, why it appeals to me and what might be the analogy to
life story writing.
First of all, the Olympics are appealing because it is a global event.
The world is watching and the stage is international. The elite athletes from
all around our planet convene for these games and it is an event that
draws billions of spectators.
By its very nature this should call to mind all that we
are on planet Earth.
There is both the good and the bad in this. Just as in life. We have
our proud moments of victory; we have our agony of defeats.
The United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, China
– basically the world's superpowers – tend to dominate in winning the
medals (see table). But high drama can emerge at any time and from
virtually any country’s competitor. This is appealing to me,
the underdog story.
Competing in the Olympics is hard work. But so is writing a life story.
Both require many hours of preparation, practice and revision. And
don’t discount training. That may be obvious for Olympic
athletes. But life story writers must also train. We must train our
writing muscles. We must train our minds. We must discipline ourselves
to persevere, even when it feels like we can’t go on. Kind of
like the challenges in the Olympic arena.
In the end we want to “get the gold”. The highest
achievement for an Olympic competitor is to take home the Gold Medal in
their event. The greatest and most gratifying achievement for a life
story writer is to find the gold in his/her story.
The journey to the award platform starts long before the actual event.
There are hours of grueling training followed by various levels of
competition just to get to the Olympic Trials. It is a long road to
even become a representative for your country.
Life story writers also tend to start in obscurity, with the kernel of
their life’s journey in mind. You must develop a memory list
and expand on it. You will review pictures, talk with others, and then
there is thinking, thinking, and more thinking. There are countless
days of writing about various experiences followed by many revisions.
There is the huge task of shaping your narrative and then seeking
feedback (all good athletes have coaches, why shouldn’t life
I'm no elite athlete, but I have played in various sports. And after
the age of fifty I ran two marathons and continue to do long distance
running. I find it hard, but extremely gratifying on many levels. There
is something spiritual to me about running several miles. But it
requires continual training. There's no way around it - if I want to
run a half or full marathon I have to put in the legwork.
Yes, it is a long road to travel. But it is well worth it. Olympic
athletes dream of competing in the games. Life writers dream of telling
their story. All worthy goals need vision. Picture in your mind the
finished story. Open the book, feel the pages, run your fingers over
memorable pictures and poignant lines.
Congratulations, life story writer! Whether or not you achieve lots of
recognition for your stories, finishing the work is akin to the
Olympians who trained hard and competed. All that hard work eventually
pays off. While only a few win gold, in truth all are winners.