The more I write, and the more I talk to writers, the more I understand that life is a story we are forever telling ourselves. It often appears otherwise. The stage of life was set before we arrived, and the scenery moves ceaselessly without our approval. Characters come and go by their own volition, die and are born, and we could no more put words in another person’s mouth than watch their dreams. Meanwhile, the sun rises and we are powerless to stop it, gravity binds us to earth without our consent, and two plus two will equal four no matter how passionately we argue for five. Which is why I must remind myself daily that life is nothing but a story we are telling ourselves. Our readers are not interested in the fact that our heroine is standing in the rain; our readers want to know what it feels like for our heroine to stand in the rain. Does the storm wash her clean of sadness, or merely soak her coat in the heaviness of despair? The rain itself doesn’t matter, only the story we tell about the rain.
The moment I forget this, the moment I lose track of the story I am telling, I despair. Now I am a pinball bounced from day to day by an unseen master. Or worse yet, no master at all, just dropped here by the random hand of fate, ricocheting my way toward death. That is the story of no story, of death before birth.
Yet when I remember the story, how quickly life comes alive. By which I mean, becomes an agent of choice. Now even the flower grows because it desires the sun, and the rock tumbles down the mountainside in search of rest. Freedom’s a frightening thing I suppose, but so is the blank page. It gives you no direction, but is exactly the shape of the story you are about to tell.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.