I sometimes think of my stories as my children. I raise them from an infant of an idea with the potential to grow in many directions, but which, through the sometimes difficult, sometimes effortless, always surprising process of choosing scenes and sentences and characters and words they grow into mature stories. As with children, it’s a collaborative effort. Children and stories tell you what they want to be; my job is to let them be it, to forget how I think my children ought to live their lives, or what I think a story will be before I try to tell it.
Stories and children are also both meant to go out and make friends. The first time I waved goodbye to my oldest son as he boarded the school bus for Kindergarten, I felt a little as if I was releasing him into the wild. Not that I thought school was such an awful place, but in the primitive democracy of the playground each kid has to find his or her own way. As much as I loved and wanted to teach my boys all I could, I simply couldn’t make their friends for them.
So too with stories. When a story meets a reader I can’t be there to shepherd this new relationship through to a happy conclusion. I cannot remind the reader of the important detail they may have overlooked in chapter one, nor explain my joke in chapter four. I’m out of the picture, and I can only trust that whatever brought the story to me will guide it to the readers who want it most.
The biggest difference between stories and children is that stories simply can’t be hurt. Readers can hate the story, can complain about it to their friends, criticize it on Amazon, even burn their copy of it in a furnace, and yet the story itself remains intact and unharmed and ready to meet new readers should they come along. With children, maybe not so much. At least, I seem to remember the pain of my childhood relationships, the uncertainty and rejection, the arguments and misunderstandings, the grudges and feuds.
Except maybe stories and children aren’t that different after all. The worst pain I felt then as now was from the thought that there was something wrong with me, that the friendships that dissolved or never materialized did so because of some incurable flaw within me. That is a wound that can be healed instantly, the moment I remember the truth of us. A story always says, “Take me as I am. Use me for your own life or not. It’s your choice.” I need be no different. A relationship is a story that either wants to be told or not – and both options are choices in service to life.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com