Behind the Book: Dan Taylor

This is the second of three posts from Dan on his new Brazos book, Creating a Spiritual Legacy.

A short definition of a spiritual legacy is the passing of wisdom from generation (or person) to another. And the best single way to do that is through stories. It’s easy to convince people of that, but sometimes hard to get them to actually tell their stories—especially on paper. A common question arises: “Where do I start?”

 The answer is to start with everyday life experiences and what you have thought and felt about them—then and now. Then tell yourself, “I’ll write just one story.” Thinking you’re going to write your autobiography is the surest road to paralysis. Just one story. If you enjoy it, then you can think about a second one.

 But which story? That requires a little preliminary work. I suggest making lists.

 Start with what I call an “events list.” If it helps, start a series of sentences with “The time that . . .” and then finish the sentences. Range far and wide through your life. Include the stories you already tell orally. Include stories about other people as well as yourself, including family stories from before you were born, but which you heard repeated as a child.

 Then make a “character list.” Who are the people from your life who need to be preserved with a story? They can be people you know well or people you met only once, or perhaps saw at a distance. (I heard Bobby Kennedy speak a few days before he was assassinated and could write a story about it.) All you need at this point is a name or brief identifier.

 A third list can be a “values list.” Put down—in a single word or short phrase—values and virtues that are important to you. This will require some reflection. You should include your highest values—for instance, honesty, faith, courage, compassion—but also include other things you value: humor, adventure, creativity.

 Any one of these lists will provide you story after story, but your most powerful stories will come when your lists intersect. When a character from your character list is part of an event on your events list that suggests a value from your value list, that is a story you need to tell.