Stop Saving Your Life! (And Tell a Better Story)


I’m home in Kodiak now. A few days ago, flying home, I sat next to a beautiful woman with mournful eyes. I pulled out my computer, as I nearly always do, and began working. (I'm on deadline for my next book, "Tell a Better Story.") And I was just leaving an intensive weekend leading a "Tell a Better Story" seminar in Atlanta. (There’s our beautiful class above.)

            We began to talk. We opened our lives. Finally she said, "If you asked me the one thing I need most in my life right now, it's to learn how to tell my story. I've been through some horrific things. Everyone who hears my story tells me to write it, but I don't know how. I can't believe God sat me next to you."  

         I send these words on to my new friend on the plane, and to all of you. Why do I spend so much of my life teaching others to write? Here’s a tiny piece of what I want to say to you:

Many of us come from the Land of Secrets, where everything must be buried and hid away. The buriers think they are staying alive, not knowing how much has already died in the dark.

Stop saving your life. Spend it. Tell it. Write it. Be generous, profligate with it bcz your life is not yours to keep, horde or hide.

Everything that has come to you: the ugly, the lovely, the break-ups and tear-downs, the crushes and crashes, the grieving and groaning, the riddles and   the cancers and healings----however secret they have come, under whatever beds and closets they hide---they do not come for you alone. Bring them out to life and light. And send them on. Comfort others, pass on whatever you have seen and heard for their sake as well as yours. Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.

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         Tell your story because not a moment is wasted in God’s economy, not the fall of chickadee from your tree or the wandering of a rebellious sheep or the fall of a strand of you  hair goes unnoticed by God and we should notice too.  

I remember the day I sat in my father’s room with notepad in hand describing the red carpet, the furniture the wolf blanket on the wall, the books over his bed. I was capturing that moment forever----and here it is still. I remember. And I pass it onto you, that moment, waiting, when he was dying and I knew that I would not see him again, ever. (And that he wouldn’t care.)

         Who else knows as you do how it felt to hold your mother’s hand after her fall, and how you had to argue her onto the gurney, all the while knowing she doesn’t even like you, that you are not one of her favorite children but you do it anyway because you still love her?


Remember first time you ever danced with your son——at his wedding?

And remember the time you climbed that mountain near sunset and an eagle sat in a tree in silhouette and your son lost his shoe over the cliff and you ended up piggybacking him down the rest of the trail while you both sang “Deep and Wide”? Who else knows how that feels?

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Oh the things you have done and seen in this life!! Don’t hoard it. Don’t stash it in some cache to keep it from those who need these stories the most.

And those who watch and listen and write and speak, those who are looking for God in every minute of their life------will find him.

 But don’t write or speak your stories to gain love or acceptance. Because when you write the very best you can, which means that you tell the truth and you tell it straight and kind, and that you do not write to exact revenge, only to scatter grace and light in graves and closets---some will dislike you. Some will reject you. Some will think you’re an egomaniac for daring to put marks on a page from your own life. Some may call you a liar and a thief. It happens to writers and truth-telling speakers all the time. But it’s okay, because you are honoring the life God has given you.

  Why am I telling you this? I have seen so much lost. When you seal your lips and your memories, you will lose not just pieces of the past and pieces of yourself, which is tragic enough, but you will lose seeing God Himself. Jesus would not waste the crumbs after 10,000 people ate, and I don’t want you to lose an entire basket, even a single crumb. If you stay silent, someone will not be fed, and the first someone is you.

The rest is all of us.

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         In the end, writing and sharing our stories is not about my father or the little children running away or the mother carrying her son down the mountain----it is that in all of those moments God is present in ways we are blind to, and we have a chance to live those moments again, this time wide awake. 

Dear Friends: Don’t hide your life underground. Spend it!

Tell and live a better story, a richer story, a truer story.

It can raise the dead to life.

(It already has.)



Friends, There are SO many other reasons to find and share our stories with one another. Anyone have another reason? Or—-something wonderful that happened when you shared your story with someone else?

(P.S. HOW do we Tell a Better Story? Let me show you! A few spots are still open: The Lake Michigan Writers’ Workshop and the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop.)