Tell your life story or watch it evaporate

What's your story? You know, the story you tell yourself about your life, who you are, where you came from and what's happened to you.

We all tell ourselves stories. They're the narratives that play out in our heads, the little voices providing the back stage commentary on our lives: He never loved me; our family is really competitive; I don't know how to manage money, etc. The stories you repeat about yourself and your past shape who you are.

For example, if your family lore is that you come from a long line of true grit, pull-yourself-up by-your-bootstraps folks who have overcome every kind of adversity, you're a lot more likely to come up with a creative plan to weather the recession than someone who tells themselves that their family tree is filled with dysfunctional alcoholics who died broke and alone.

In her newest book - "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper" - best-selling author and artist SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) writes, "People don't necessarily recognize the importance and value of their own stories. They dismiss the familiar and forget that everyone's stories have power."

I never realize how defined I was by my own family yarns until I interviewed SARK and found myself telling her the story of how my great-grandmother Annie Bell marched with Susan B. Anthony for women's right to vote.

We have no idea if it's even true. Everyone who knew her is long since dead and, for all I know, all she did was learn how to spell the word "vote." But it's part of our family lore, and we've been repeating it for years. So in our minds it's real, and it defines us.

I can't tell you how many times I've repeated to my daughters, and myself, "My great-grandmother marched with Susan B. Anthony. The women in our family can do anything we set our minds to."

Of course, we also like to recite the story of how my South Carolina grandma used to soak the labels off her liquor bottles so the garbage man wouldn't know how much she drank.

Not quite as inspiring but, as an eyewitness to the great Jim Bean soak off, at least I know for sure that one is true.

But back to your stories. What are the stories you're telling yourself, and which ones are you going to wish you had written down?

SARK - an expert on writing best known for her quirky, colorful, creative best-sellers like "Succulent Wild Woman," "Bodacious Book of Succulence" and "Eat Mangos Naked" - says, "The wonder of writing is that it tells the story, and when people are telling their stories they're telling what's in their souls."

"When you say it, it disappears into the air," she claims, "But when you write it down, it becomes real."

"Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper" is aptly subtitled, "Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It," because SARK doesn't buy the old adage that "there's a book in all of us." She actually believes "everybody is like a library of books, bulging with stories, experiences and unique perspectives"

I sure wish I had a library filled with my grandmothers' stories - the Jim Bean drinker and the women's activist.

But what about you? What's your story?

And when are you going to get brave enough to give the world the gift of writing it down?

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.