Our individual stories define our place in the world, an integral part of each generation as it becomes one with the past. Grandmothers and grandfathers, parents and family friends all expose parts of themselves as they spool out their childhood stories to the wide-eyed children listening with rapt attention.
With refreshing candor, Lynn Lauber in Listen to Me speaks to that personal self and why it is important to write these stories -- not for publication, but for personal definition and clarity. Lauber stresses that it is not necessary to “be” a writer to write successfully. While filling blank pages with our memories, random thoughts and anecdotes, we achieve a deeper perception of the true self. These stories are healing, addressing the feelings and experiences of a lifetime. Such “self-writing” can become a habit, a sorting process that illuminates the past. Such self-knowledge enables us to connect to others, to form relationships that nurture and expand our potential and growth.
The author has led numerous workshops teaching the process of storytelling. Immediately accessible, Lauber stresses that even the most ordinary life is rich with opportunity. As I read the simple, but powerful words of Listen to Me, I thought of the many times I asked my grandmother to tell me about her girlhood at the turn of the century, the amazing events she witnessed over the years, each decade ushering in more changes to the world. My grandmother would preface each story murmering, “Oh, you don’t want to hear this…” But I did.
Anecdotally, Lauber guides us through the necessary steps, overcoming the most common misconception that “I don’t have anything to say.” She suggests that we start with “my mother told me” and go on from there, allowing fledgling writers to relinquish personal constraints, giving permission to witness the journey.
The chapters range from “writing out your life,” “writing for revenge” and” writing to heal” to “finding your form” and “editing”. In addition, at the end of each chapter there are valuable writing exercises, specially formulated for honing observation and narrative skills. The final chapter is titled “Nine Good Things about Writing,” practical suggestions for conquering the most common difficulties.
Full of enthusiasm and compassion, this book is a treasure, a challenge to explore our inner selves and the stories we carry inside us. As a teacher, Lauber’s joy is contagious, encouraging her readers, pen in hand, to write the words that free us, that comfort and acknowledge. Be sure to buy more than one copy. Listen to Me is a perfect gift, but first a gift I will keep for myself.