Lisa Dale NortonLisa Dale Norton

Your Life as Story: Writing Narrative Non Fiction
Your Life as a Story of Love

Lisa Dale Norton

February, 2011

"Writing a story about your life can be overwhelming."

Writing a story about your life can be overwhelming. Questions and concern plague: Where do I begin? What do I include? If I write everything it will be thousands of pages long!

But how about love? Everyone has loved someone or something. Lost love, won love, fought for love, tumbled into love. Love of things. Love of people. Love of place. These are the stories that, despite all the problems facing our world, still snatch our attention, crimp our hearts.

Perhaps it was childhood love—the girl next door, the boy who sat in front of you in school. The love of a first car, a pet raccoon. Love for the wooded hills behind your house. Romantic love denied by geography, culture, religion. Or war. War has brought many a heart together and torn others apart. What is your story of love?

". . . you focus the story of your life on this slim section of experience, narrow it to those memories that circle one love. . ."

If you focus the story of your life on this slim section of experience, narrow it to those memories that circle one love, you’ll have a much easier time winnowing the material of your life for a story.

Here’s an example of a mini love memoir:

The fenders sparkled lavender in the blue-sky sunlight. Streamers fluttered in the breeze from the handlebars. The brakes consisted of one strong back pedal. My lavender bike was my ticket to a bigger world, the vehicle that jetted me out of my former three-wheeled freedom.

I parked my lavender bike in the yard weekly on summer days, pulled the hose over and with a bucket and cloth washed the seat and fenders, sprayed water that freshened the plastic streamers, scrubbed the spokes and wheels with a brush borrowed from my mother’s cleaning tools stashed above the back porch sink, and scraped at tar that had splattered up from wheels spinning through the black goo of summer street repair.

In winter my bike was stored in the garage, along with my brother’s more sophisticated three-speed Raleigh. I didn’t care that he had gears on his handlebars. I could sit tall on my bike, sail leisurely along the level street at the top of The Ridge where my family lived, or point my head into the hot wind and dash down the hill in front of our house blurring past elms in the park. For long years my father kept my lavender bike in the garage hanging from hooks on the wall. I was long gone from The Ridge and a life at home. When I saw my lavender bike I felt reassured of all things solid and known in the world, and yet sad.

"When did I forsake that love for something grander just beyond the horizon?"

When did I last grab those plastic handles and take off for worlds undiscovered, step from the heavy black pedals, toe the kickstand into earth? When did I forsake that love for something grander just beyond the horizon?

About Lisa Dale Norton

Lisa Dale Norton is a regular Authorlink columnist. She is nationally recognized as a writing instructor with a passion for story. Read more about Lisa.


Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR (St. Martin's Press), is in bookstores now. Lisa is the author of the acclaimed memoir HAWK FLIES ABOVE: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE SANDHILLS, a work combining memoir and nature writing. She teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the process of memoir. She lives in Santa Fe.