“The theme you choose may change or simply elude you, but being your own story means you can always choose the tone.” — Toni Morrison
My friend, Valeriana Dema, and I had the honor of leading a narrative writing workshop at a local NGO, KosovaLive.
Our workshop focused on how we tell our stories. How do we choose what we share? How do we frame our experiences in order to find meaning?
I asked our participants, “How many people here have ever been on a date? How many people have ever had a coffee with someone new?” I pointed out that storytelling is not some lofty, academic thing. It is something we all do, every day, in order to build relationships with other people. We share our stories and tell who we
Val found this video of Toni Morrison giving a commencement speech at Wellesley College, titled “Be Your Own Story.” If you have time to watch the entire video, I recommend it. (For our presentation, we began the video at 18:34.)
Next, we passed out an abridged version of this article from The Atlantic, titled “Story of my Life: How Narrative Creates Personality.” We allowed participants time to read the article to themselves.
After reading the article, we posed a few discussion questions to the group. Our participants shared some experiences from their own lives.
We then moved on to a group activity called “Overcoming Obstacles.” Participants divided into groups. We gave each group a slip of paper with three obstacles. We asked group members to come up with ideas of how each obstacle could lead to a positive outcome. (An example: “You failed a university exam.” Possible outcomes: You study more the next time. Or, you realize you aren’t interested in that class, and switch to a topic you would rather study.) Afterward, groups were asked to share their answers with the other participants.
For our last exercise, we gave our participants the chance to write a narrative of their own, and share it with a partner. Val and I each shared a story from our own lives to begin. You can read my story here: For KosovaLive.
Also, here is a link to our PowerPoint presentation: Narrative Writing Workshop
We closed with a few brief remarks and thanked everyone for coming. Val and I had a great time leading our workshop, largely because our participants were so engaged and eager to share.