How to Know When It’s Time to Rewrite the Story

November 11, 2019

I love old bookstores.

I always find some new treasure to bring home while continuing my search for my childhood favorite, the out-of-print “Cheese, Peas and Chocolate Pudding.”

It was about a finicky eater. It might have been titled “Peas, Cheese and Chocolate Pudding.” I can’t recall. Childhood was 40 years ago.

On this day, in this lovely gem of a bookstore in New York City, I didn’t find the book about the kid who would only eat peas, cheese and chocolate pudding. But I did notice this title:

“101 Things for Girls to Do”

I was intrigued. I’m a girl. I have a girl. What kind of things could we do?

I flipped through the table of contents and the suggestions (101 of them!) all filed in the general category of “Home Economics.” Not a strength of mine in high school. As I approach my 30th high school reunion, I still can’t properly fold a fitted sheet.

This book had no tips on folding fitted sheets. Perhaps they hadn’t yet been invented. But, don’t worry, according to “101 Things for Girls to Do,” there’s still plenty to do:

Make a melon-shaped basket…  (p. 103)

Almond walnut and date fondants! (p. 137)

Might a telephone number index come in handy? (p. 115)

Five pages are dedicated to a variety of lampshades (pp. 107-111). Do you prefer square, circular, hexagonal or pleated?

I put the book down. I will have to go through life with other things to do than make a “caddy spoon in pewter” (p. 130)

Keep in mind this book of “simple crafts and household subjects” is the sixth edition of this ancient tome. I wonder what activities the first five touted? Tending the hearth while the caveman of the house went out to club the wooly mammoth or invent the wheel?

I showed the book to my girl, then 12, and suggested she update the copy appropriately with 101 things girls these days can do. Things like learn to code, protest climate change, score the winning field goal on the high school football team, make a million as a YouTuber…

It’s clear that it’s time to update the story.

Since I see story symbolism everywhere (like the meaning of a Big Splash, the sound of Laughing Gulls and the Launch of an Air Balloon), it wasn’t hard to find the message, clearly typed in black and white in this outdated book.

We all have an old story – first, second, or even third edition – that needs to be updated.

When your story no longer suits you or serves you, it’s time to rewrite it.

What type of stories?

All of those that start with “can’t” or “don’t” or “won’t.” Let’s add “couldn’t” and “shouldn’t” and “wouldn’t” to that list.

How about anything that uses the word “just” (as in, “I’m just an assistant” or “just a mom” or “I’m just not that good at that…”)

Let’s rewrite all those storylines about being “too old” or “too late” or “not ready.”

Your story doesn’t end until you do and if you’re reading this, you’re still here…

Let’s stop casting ourselves as incompetent or insecure or bad moms or great team players not yet ready to lead.

Gag me with a caddy spoon in pewter!

Think you’re a bad or boring person? You’re not.  You’re just in a bad or boring story.

It’s time to turn the page.

Why are you holding on to an old or unhelpful or unsatisfying narrative?

This is YOUR story…  what happens next is up to you.

When you’ve grown into a new character, it’s time to start a new storyline. We are always growing so we should always be advancing the story.

You create the plot points necessary to choose your own adventure.

There are 101 things you can do to get started and not a single one involves lamp shades. Well, maybe it does if that’s your thing. You can create a successful business selling them on Etsy. The marketplace has been updated.

I know that I will keep searching for “Peas, Cheese and Chocolate Pudding.”  Or maybe it was “Cheese, Peas and Chocolate Pudding.”  I can’t recall. I may never find it but I’ll keep seeking.

Just like we should each keep seeking the best of ourselves and our own next chapter.

Keep writing, my readers. Your story is ready for a new edition.

And if you happen to find my favorite childhood book in your travels, please pick up a copy for me.

Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, a former Emmy-winning television producer and the founder of career and communication strategy firm Commander-in-She. Through inventive workshops and engaging keynotes, she provides women with the tools to find the power in their own story and achieve career success and satisfaction. 

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