A Different Story

I used to think stories were those tales I told my friends about that interesting thing that happened to me the day before, or those adventures I read in books, or those love affairs I saw in movies, or the crimes I watched being solved on television. Those were stories, and then there was life. Life, that Ocean of Now through which I swam, was reality. I often preferred stories. But as a storyteller I am aware that my job is to select those details that provide the most vivid view of a perspective of the world I want to share. If I am introducing a character, I cannot describe every single detail about that character, from exactly how many hairs are on his head to the color of his underwear. All those details exist; they are real. Nonetheless, they must be omitted because they do not serve my story. I must choose to focus on a tiny fraction of the whole of reality to share the truth my story seeks to convey.

The details I choose to include and the details I choose to omit determine the story I tell. So too those details I choose to focus upon and those details I choose to ignore while I swim through the Ocean of Now called Life. It is physically and perceptually impossible for me to focus on all the details that make up the whole of reality. I can only face in one direction at one time; I can only be in one country, in one city, and in one room at one time. I can only have one conversation at one time. I can only read one book at one time or listen to one song at one time.

And I can only think one thought at one time. This is where the real storytelling occurs. How easy, when I poor my coffee in the morning and head to my desk, to think, “What’s the point?” I am a gardener who can perceive his seeds and the soil, but not the fruit of the coming tree. In that three-word instant I am living the story of a barren world where nothing I plant will grow. Who would choose to live in such a world? I just did. And I will continue to live in it, to call that story reality, until I choose a different story—and just like that, as if I’d picked a different book from the shelf, my world is fertile with possibility again.


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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