A Storyteller's Patience

To wander a bookstore is to choose a world I would like to live in for a time. It is a temporary exchange of this world for another, but if I choose well the exchange will be nearly complete. I will suffer and rejoice with the characters, I will want what they want, and I will be glad when they have found what they were looking for as if it was I who had found it. All that will be missing is to see these new friends with my eyes, and touch them with my hands. This is a minor difference. When I close this book, it will be as if these friends have left my house, and what remains within me is exactly what remains when any friend has said goodbye. And when I tell a story I am also choosing the world I would like to live in for a time. It does not matter if that story is something I have lived or something wholly invented. Choosing this world is a process of trial and error. I have chosen so many different worlds over the years that I have learned to recognize rather quickly the many worlds I know I do not want to visit. This is where what we call originality occurs. I say to myself, “I know I don’t want to go there, or there, or there. So where do I want to go?” This is the most creative question I can ask myself.

A conversation is like choosing a world too. My wife and I love to talk. After twenty-plus years of talking and talking to each other, we realized that as much as we loved to talk and we loved each other, we were not always happy after our conversations. It was as if a topic had chosen us and not the other way around, as if we were dropped into a world we would never have chosen to live in.

You would think for a couple people who choose worlds all the time at their desks choosing one together would be a simple matter. It was not. Even in the relatively tranquil and steady environment of our living room or kitchen, our world can feel like a story already written that we have been assigned to read. To see a different world requires a storyteller’s patience. We had to agree to put the old story down, and ask, “Where do we want to go?” and then wait together for that answer.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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