Here’s an experiment in storytelling: Stand up and take a deep breath. Take another deep breath. Notice, if you can, how your body feels at rest. You’re rather used to it, so it’s not that simple. Still, do the best you can. Then, squeeze your hands into fists, flex your upper body – your chest and your biceps and your shoulders – and hold your breath. Maintain this tension for five or ten seconds. Now comes the important part. Exhale and stop flexing and unclench your firsts and let your body return to rest.
Notice how your body feels the moment you release the tension. The feeling will move quickly through your body, so quickly that if you are not paying close attention you might not notice it. If you are not paying close attention, the transition from tension to rest will seem instantaneous. But it is not. Your body must remember its normalcy, and that remembering is why we write.
All stories are about normalcy, tension, and a return to normalcy. But the power of storytelling resides within the movement from one state to another, particularly the movement from tension to normalcy. Once your body has released the tension you created in this exercise, you quickly adjust to the experience of lack of tension, because that is how you are meant to live, which makes it not so easy to appreciate. But during that transition, that remembering, you appreciate what has always been available to you.
Storytelling is about creating war so we can appreciate peace; creating hatred so we can appreciate love; creating inequality so we can appreciate equality. To write with power requires a subtle awareness of how it feels to move from one state to another. In truth, we storytellers spend our energies building, detailing, and believing in nightmares, and then offering the brief, sweet exhalation that is awakening to life as we were meant to live it. This we give to our readers. The living that follows belongs entirely to them.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com