I spent the first part of this week in Los Angeles, visiting my brother and a few good friends, as well as giving a reading and a lecture. It’s always good to see my brother and my friends, partly because they are all such good storytellers. I love a well-told story in the live theater of the living room. In many ways my writing and all my creative endeavors, from theater to lectures to interviews, have been an extension of this intimate art form. On Tuesday night, after all the Los Angeles tours were done, after my reading and my lecture, my friends and I gathered at my brother’s apartment, opened some wine, and told some stories. On this evening, my friend Chris told one of the best stories I have heard in a long time. It was funny, entertaining, and had a beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending. It lasted twenty minutes, and for that time Chris reminded us why life was funny, interesting, and ultimately salvageable.
I have been listening to my friend Chris tell such stories since I met him in the cafeteria of Hope High School 33 years ago. It is easy for admiration to turn into emulation, and for 33 years I have tried, now and again, to tell a story as Chris might tell it, to borrow a little of his particular narrative magic. Unfortunately, it was never his to loan, which I learned again and again in my awkward efforts.
On this night, however, I had just completed a lecture peppered with stories, and as I listened to him I was also filled with that spent and happy feeling of having shared something fully with the world. I knew the lecture had gone well not because of the applause or the handshakes, but because I felt so unapologetically like myself during and after. Such a comfortable feeling that, listening to Chris, I forgave myself for having ever thought I needed to be him. Imitation may be flattery, but it isn’t love, which flows fastest when I allow myself to be only one person at a time.
Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!