I spent two weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand visiting my sister and her family. My mother and aunt came too, and it was their first time in Thailand. As you can imagine, there was a lot going on. But were there any stories with a clear and compelling beginning, middle and end? Or was it all just the chaos of travel and family reunion?
After brainstorming, I decided to focus on one standout experience that didn’t have much to do with any of my family members except my sister. She had made me an appointment with Khun Nee, a natural healer of sorts, who performed a fertility massage on me. It was a surprising experience—everything from Khun Nee herself and how this ‘massage’ made me feel, to her house where the treatment happened, and the fact that I got pregnant very soon after. So, I had my beginning, and a great ending. The trouble was that I still didn’t have a middle. I hadn’t located the personal backstory that made the story itself resonate. Without a backstory, my experience was one dimensional and lacked deeper meaning.
So, I asked myself some questions:
- What was it about my experience at Khun Nee’s that made it so special?
- Why did I believe that her treatment would work?
- Why am I so confident that she was the reason I was able to conceive?
Only through writing down my answers to these critical reflective questions did I find that the essay was really about my relationship to my twin sister. Brooke was the one who recommended Khun Nee because she had received this treatment first. She had tried to get pregnant for a year. Then she found Khun Nee, and conceived my beautiful nephew, Jet, very soon after. The deeper meaning of my story was my relationship to my twin sister and the idea of our ‘shared’ health. I believed Khun Nee’s treatment would and did work because I had seen it work for my sister. And I knew that my sister and I, as twins, shared a bond of health and ailments. Once I figured that out, I could really get to work exploring moments of our history and ‘shared health’ that resonated with my story of being treated by Khun Nee.
After I figured this out, writing the story became a joyous experience. That joy came from solving the puzzle of how to write about this momentous and unique experience in my life that gave it the weight it deserved.
We can deliberate our way through our experiences and find a way in to writing our stories by simply thinking. Yet the more efficient tactic is the seemingly harder choice: start writing out answers to reflective questions about the meaning of your story and journey. What deeper meaning surfaces for you?
In the Writing Your Adventures workshop we’ll examine how to identify stories out of your travels and give them the deeper meaning that makes your stories resonate and memorable.
Dr Jillian Schedneck is the author of the travel memoir Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights, published by Pan Macmillan in 2012. Her essays have appeared in American and Australian literary journals such as Brevity, The Lifted Brow, Wet Ink and Literary Traveller. She has taught creative writing in the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.