Posted by: deadmousediaries | January 5, 2012

Who’s Writing YOUR Story? – a question from Mitchell Kyd

When I woke up after our New Year’s Eve celebration, there was a dragon in my kitchen. No, really. He was just a little dragon, not the stuff that legends and movies are made of, but an official dragon, just the same. His Latin name is Pogona vitticeps and he’s an Australian bearded dragon. We just call him Birg.

    It’s not like I hadn’t known he had been skulking under my roof for a week or so but I didn’t expect to face him like hair of the dog. By Sunday morning, his whole ecosystem had been mysteriously moved to my counter top, heat lamps, cricket snacks and all. He and I spent a lot of quality time together that day as I buzzed around the kitchen, undoing the damage from the evening’s celebration and the humans’ late-night foraging.

    To my amazement, he titled his head and followed all my movements intently. He appeared to be completely engaged in everything I did. He even stood up and pressed his little dragon feet to the side of the glass and watched with intrigue as I sloshed around the sink with my rubber gloves and stemware ((which is more interest in dish washing than anyone else in the house exhibited over the holidays).

    I share that story here because Birg was new to our Christmas in 2011 and now he is a chapter in the Mitchell family album. A lot of things were new this year. In a holiday season when nothing felt right, we couldn’t trust the old rituals to mask an empty seat at our table. As it turns out, even as we were missing one of our best-loved central characters, we continued to make stories.

    For instance, the gift that we will all remember from Christmas 2011 was a three-dollar bag of peeled and roasted chestnuts that I thought would be a wonderful return to an old-time treat. Instead, it became the center of a competition to find the word that best described the smell. We finally agreed that feet came closest to the mark. Did we eat the chestnuts? No! But the visual of that crazy pass-and-sniff is now another part of our Christmas stories.

    We did return to our ritual of cutting our own tree and brought home a dandy: soft, full and fragrant. What we hadn’t envisioned was how difficult it would be to muster the enthusiasm to reinvent our trim-a-tree night. As the Big Day came creeping closer and closer, our little tree was still bare so we changed our expectations. We rewrote our holiday script. Like the bald-headed men who remind us that there are only so many perfect heads in the world and the rest are covered with hair, we decided our tree was perfect as it stood. We declared we would not cover it with lights or silly decorations that would camouflage its natural beauty. It was all a matter of perspective but it is now a tree we will remember long after all the others have faded in our memories.

    As a writer and a storyteller, every day unfolds for me as a blank page, fat and thirsty for recording the events that become my memories. I write down our stories because I don’t want them to be forgotten. I want my great-grandchildren to know their grandparents as my kids who were, at one time, dragon trainers.

    We are no longer a culture of oral story tellers and unless we write things down, our stories will be lost in just two generations. Everyone has tales to tell and my New Year’s question to you is: Who is writing your story?

    Writing doesn’t need to be a tough assignment. Don’t think of it as tackling your whole life story; think of it as capturing the stories of your life. There are no rules, no right or wrong. And there is no order you must follow, Even Hollywood knows that a great story doesn’t have to begin at the beginning; look at Star Wars, the epic tale that first hooked us in the middle.

    In my workshops, I ask participants to approach story writing as a grocery list. Start by listing two or three events you’d like to record, then make other more detailed lists about the characters and settings that shaped them. Get a handle on the verbs and adjectives that colored your memories and then reflect on the emotions you experienced or the ones you want to conjure. It’s a lot like eating an elephant; you do it one bite at a time.

    If you’d like some help in getting started, get some friends together and call me. We’ll write and play and brainstorm until you are ready to fly off on your own. Just remember: it’s a brand new year and your stories are important. If you aren’t preserving them in writing, who will be?

Copyright 2012. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.


  1. Thank you for brightening my day once again. I just laugh and feel so much better because you are here. Maya Christobel

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