You probably think your life is pretty routine and that you don’t have exciting stories to tell. You get up, eat breakfast, go to work, take kids to school, study yourself, write, whatever it is that you do to fill your days.
This mundane life does not seem to be the stuff of stories, let alone show-stopping, get-everyone’s-attention kind of stories.
And yet, it is.
Number 1: Everyday life is fascinating.
Your everyday life is fascinating to your audience for one simple reason.
Their life is not your life.
They don’t know what your routines are. They don’t know what you eat for breakfast or which route you take to work or about your kid’s friendship drama or that English professor who sweats a lot in class.
Your audience doesn’t live in your life, they are not bored by your routines.
So, the first lesson about whether your mundane stories are worth telling or not is that your mundane is not your audience’s mundane. They are surprisingly interested in you.
Not sure about that?
Let’s turn it around for a minute then.
I write morning pages (almost) every day. It’s three pages longhand in a notebook. I use the same pen and same type of journal. I’ve been doing it for 107 weeks now.
That’s a routine. It’s mundane. It’s often really, achingly boring to do.
And yet, every time I mention it, people are curious. They’re fascinated. They want to know what I write, which tools I write with, how I decide what to write, why I write, and on and on and on.
Because they don’t get up and write three pages longhand (almost) every morning.
Number 2: It’s all About Context
If you want to start seeing the interesting things in your life, ask yourself what you might want to know about someone else’s life.
Think about your neighbor. Neighbors are close but far away. We practically share the same living space. I even share a wall with my neighbors. Their son is over at my house two or three days a week.
But I don’t really know what goes on over there. When do they do their grocery shopping? How do they manage kids and bedtimes? How do they decide how to celebrate holidays or where to go on family vacations?
Turn on your curiosity and think about the people who you see regularly in life. What kinds of questions would you like to ask them? What kinds of things do you google to figure out what’s “normal?”
Parents are really good at this – should my child stay up until 11pm? How do I get my kids to eat pasta?
Celebrity magazines are all pro when it comes to making the mundane exciting. House tours? Pantry tours? Reality TV shows about cleaning out your closet? It’s all out there and audiences love it!
I have a child who doesn’t like to eat pasta. How’s that for mundane? And fascinating? Believe me, I can tell a story or two about it and you’d probably have a good laugh.
So there’s a second lesson for you. Start with thinking about which questions you’d like to ask someone else about their daily lives. Then tell those exciting stories about your life for others.
Number 3: Take a Permanent Vacation
Do you live somewhere that tourists like to visit?
I do and there is nothing more entertaining than listening to tourists talk about the place you take for granted.
I live in Nijmegen, a medium-sized town in the eastern side of the Netherlands. Most people have never heard of it.
Tourists or friends who visit, though, go nuts for the Dutch town thing, though. They love the cobblestones and the cute facades. They are endlessly fascinated with all the bicycles and the biking. Kids on bikes, adults with kids on bikes, cargo bikes, so many bikes, everywhere bikes!
I take every bit of this for granted. Cobblestones are hard to bike over and don’t get me started about heels. Cute facades house chain stores just like strip malls in the States. And bikes? Let me tell you about biking in the rain and the snow and the hail and the wind. Biking all the time!
What fascinates them does not fascinate me. But, if I were to tell stories about it, they would listen and they would want to know more.
Lesson three is to look at your life like you’re permanently on vacation. Try to see your life and your normal as an outsider. You’ll be surprised how many exciting stories there are to tell.
Number 4: Seek Universal Themes and Experiences
We humans are all living our own little lives in our own little bits of the world but we have a whole lot in common. Universal themes and experiences unite us across geography and culture and time.
Finding the emotion that your audience can recognize will help you connect with them. Talking about your version of the emotion will engage them in your story.
I often use the example of listening to my daughter tell stories when I’m giving a workshop. Listening to a 6-8 year old child tell stories is one of the most mundane things a parent can do because those kids can tell a story that will leave you wandering in the desert looking for meaning.
I’m talking about stories where they tell you every single thing that happened since the last time they saw you.
Tapping into that boredom, the pain of listening to anyone who talks without a point or an end, leads to a story that almost every audience can appreciate. Taking that feeling and turning it into a lesson on storytelling and I’ve got a reason to use my mundane experience in a story with a purpose.
We all have to get up in the morning. Many of us have a negative relationship with our alarm clocks. There’s a story in there if you can tap into the emotion and then talk about what you do with it.
We all have to eat, but it’s a problem we solve in different ways. How do you solve it? Why do you do it that way? What have you learned? When did it go wrong?
Those are stories, too.
Lesson four is to find the shared experience or emotion in your everyday experience and let that become the purpose for your story.
You CAN Tell Exciting Stories About Your Boring Life
So there you go, four ways to make your mundane stories exciting!
- Your mundane is not your audience’s mundane
- Tell the stories that answer the questions you’d like to ask
- Look at your life like you’re permanently on vacation
- Make shared experiences and emotions the purpose for your stories
Now, go and get back to your boring, routine, mundane life and tell some great stories about it!