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The 6 Serving Men of Creativity What, Where, When, Why, How and Who

You have a great story with a great lesson. You are sure that people will walk away enriched after reading your story. But having it in your head and putting it on to paper are two dramatically different things.  Rudyard Kipling wrote a famous poem that give some guidance for starting a story and fleshing out the details:

"I have Six Stalwart Serving Men,
They taught me all I know,
Their Names are What and Where and When,
And Why and How and Who."

This is the secret to creativity. Question every single detail and answer all of these questions.  Use these questions to guide you in breathing life (and substance) into your piece.


Answer the what questions first. You will come back to the what question as you answer other questions that they lead you to ask more questions. This will start the process all over so have fun with it.  What did you do in the first grade that caused you to get sent to the principal's office?  What did the principal do when you showed up in his office. Ask the what questions, but don't close the door. You will revisit this first of the six serving men often.


Your next task on this adventure of exploration is to ask where. Where was your school? Where were you when you committed the act that got you sent to the principal's office? Ask the where question to add a new layer or dimension to your story. This will give your reader a better visual of your situation or dilemma, especially when you develop it and give your reader a good mental picture.


It is important to know when an event took place, especially if the story hinges on something that was common for a particular era.  When did this experience occur that got you sent to the principal's office? Was it in the 1940's? The 1960's? The 1980's? Each of these times had a completely different flavor to them, therefore, it is important that you reader know the time period in which they are taking their virtual journey. Set the stage and set the mood, but also tell your reader when the event is taking place.


This is a big question. You can ask why about a lot of things. Why did you get sent to the principal's office? Why did you do what you did? Why did your principal react the way that he did? You can go on and on. Answering this question, though, fills in vital information for your reader.  They need to know why certain things happened the way that they did. Don't shy away from this question and if it leads you back to some what questions, so be it. Your story will be all the better for it.


nswering the how questions give some good details that may otherwise be missed. How did the person who sent you to the principal's office know that you did what you did? How did you execute what you did to get sent to the principal's office? Look at each piece of information and ask how. Part of writing is taking your story apart and dissecting it to find the parts that are missing so that you can fill it in and make your story better. Find the missing parts and ask the questions.


This question identifies the players in your story. Who sent you to the principal's office? Who was with you when you committed your act? Who is in your story sets the tone and pace for how your story plays out. You may remember certain details about people as you answer the who question and that can lead you to yet another story!

Answer the questions as you write, then read over your work and ask the questions again. Give your readers a clear picture of what you are telling them. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them think…as long as you are engaging them.


As you are writing your life story, keep in mind your purpose and intent. These do's and don'ts may help.

Don't allow the idea of writing your life story intimidate you. This is your own personal project and there are no right or wrong ways to do it. Present it in the way that is right for you. 

Do carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. You never know when you will remember a particular fact, incident or name. Have a small notebook handy to record the information so you won't forget it.

Don't be afraid to ask others for their contributions. Ask friends and family members for their contributions and recommendations to your life story.

Do include personal photos. Personal photos can add impact to your finished story.  Pictures add another dimension to your life story by giving your readers a visual to compliment the words.

Don't sell yourself short. Don't fall into the traps that many people do when they think about writing their life story. Don't think that you are not a good enough writer or even that your story is not interesting enough to generate reader interest. Everyone has a story in them.

Do tell your story your way. Tell your story your own way.  Use your own personality and write as you speak. Pour yourself into your story; don't write it the way that you think others would.

Don't limit yourself. Don't hold back and set limitations for yourself. You can write your life story and it will be interesting to people. Most of all, you CAN do it so throw out those limitations and get to work!

Do relax and have fun. Stress is a creativity killer. Relax and have a good time with writing your life story. 

Writing your life story is a great adventure that is great for not only you, but your family as well. Others can benefit from the lessons you have learned and it will allow you to live on forever. 

The website: of course has stories that you can click on to see other people’s stories they’ve written about themselves, and of course there is the foundation that keeps these stories in perpetuity.