Brandon Doman began The Strangers Project in 2009, inviting strangers to write their story. He’d set up his experiment at a coffee shop or other public venue. Doman imposed only a few ground rules, notably:
1. People can write about anything they want, as long as it’s true.
2. Stories are collected face-to-face in public places.
3. Stories are shared anonymously.
4. Stories must be spontaneously handwritten.
More than 10,000 stories later, he curated a collection of 200 true tales for his book.
The book could be called “Strangers Confess.” So many of the writings are about romance gone bad, misguided parents, disease, death or other heartbreak.
My favorite passage in the book may be the shortest:
“My mom and I left my dad when I was 8. When I asked my dad how much he loved me he would always say, ‘as much as all the onions in the world. Past, present and future.’ I always cry when I chop onions.”
Despite the sadness and shock running through the book, I’m inspired by the ultimate outcome. No mention of writer’s block is seen in 237-plus pages. These participants may have never considered traditional publishing before. This may have been their only opportunity ever to communicate a bit of themselves. They wanted a connection. A legacy. Even if readers wouldn’t be seeing their byline and contact info.
The book ends with two blank pages. “What’s Your Story? Write it Down” is the challenge.
Even before you pick up Doman’s eye-opening book, accept his challenge. If you don’t share your story, who will?