Stories

Aug. 3rd, 2010 07:31 am
krikketgirl: (Women Write)
I don't think of myself primarily as a writer, but primarily as a storyteller. I tend to see a book as a collection of pieces of a story, stirred together; and what is a life but one story after another? And I do think that the adage is true: every person has a story to tell. More--I think we all have stories we tell, stories about ourselves, stories about other people, stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell the world.

Not all of these stories are made up, of course. To get at what I mean, let me use myself as an example. I tell stories. Sometimes, I tell made-up stories about other people, and I call those stories "fiction" and write them in books. When I tell those stories, I have a point, a message, something for you to take away--and I use the story to make you understand.

Sometimes, I tell true stories, usually stories about myself. Most often, those stories have a point, too, something I want you to understand. The difference (other than the fiction/nonfiction aspect) is that the stories I tell about real things are often encapsulated: short ways of expressing the way things are, in a small and personal form.

Oh, they may have a lot of detail. There may be color and dialect. They may take a few minutes to tell. But that story is communicating something big in a small, compact form. Over time, some aspects of my life have become a series of stories, almost as though they're labeled in boxes in my head. "The Story of Meeting Chris." "The Story of Getting My Job." "The Story of Reading Fast." "The Story of How I Lived in a Bus." "The Story of Why I Fear Dinner Parties."

These are all a part of me, and through repetition, they become more a part of me. Of course, I tell stories to my children, too. "The Story of Why You Should Be Thankful." "The Story of Why the Youngest Boy is So Cuddly." "The Story of How I Won't Come Clean House For You When You're 25, So Get Busy and Clean Your Room." "The Story of How Sometimes People Are Ridiculous." "The Story of 'I'd Rather You Be Kind Than Get Good Grades, But Both Would Be Nice as Well.'"

My stories about myself--the ones I tell others--shape me, but mostly communicate to others who I am, how I got to be this way, and (hopefully) how we're alike, under the skin. My stories about the kids shape them, and that is staggering. And there is yet another category of stories: the stories I tell myself that no one else ever hears, at least directly. "The Story of I'm Worried Because I Worry So Much, But if I Don't Worry, Doesn't That Mean I Don't Care?" "The Story of I'm Not Really Sure What I'm Doing." "The Story of Why Is Life So HAAAAAAAAARD? Whine whine whine." "The Story of I Have Such a Wonderful Life, and I Don't Deserve It."

Those stories shape me and how I interact with the world. Some stories are on automatic pilot--especially stories about how hard life is or my self-perceived inadequacies. Those stories need no help to be repeated over and over. But the thing is that a number of those stories are fictional--they're made up. Or maybe they once were true, and now are not. All fiction contains a germ of truth, but even I know that a lot of those silent stories are just fabrications. What's harder is to counteract those stories with true stories. It's harder to tell myself the story of "Buck Up and Things Will Look Better" or "Anyone's Allowed to Have a Bad Day" or "Get Over Yourself Already, Katherine" or "You're Doing Fine, Just Keep Going."

What I hope, of course, is that over time those stories will supplant the old ones. I hope, too, that the stories I tell my kids will be stories that will become ingrained in a good way--like the story of "No Matter How Awful You Behave Sometimes, You're My Favorite Oldest Boy In All the World." Or "You Did Your Very Best, and I Am Proud of You."

What stories are you telling yourself? What stories are you telling others? Are they true stories? Stories you need to update? Stories you need to toss?

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