Friday, March 18, 2011

We Tell Ourselves Stories...It's All in the Tone

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion. Also, the magnificent author, in my opinion, of the book “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
It’s entertaining, a bit, to have been told so much to “stop thinking” and yet have one of my most favorite books have the word “thinking” right there in the title.
I don’t necessarily like to think; I’m just good at it. I was a philosophy minor because, like episodes of “Seinfeld” I have never seen, I could sit and talk for hours about absolutely nothing. 
Everyone is always saying:
Stop thinking.
Live in the now.
Trust your gut.
Do what’s right.
It will pass.
Usually, at this point, I tell you some story about something that happened recently or I recall from the past. Instead, I’ll tell you a story with only half-truths. Because, well, when you tell stories, who knows what’s actually true and what’s not, right? We’re all listeners hearing things with blind faith. We faithfully listen and just have to believe that the three mile walk to school in the snow was true, and then feel guilty when we whine about having to stand on the corner and wait for the bus. 
In June 2005, I sat down to start writing what I thought might be a short story, at best. Fitting my very-thinking personality, I called it “The Philosopher” and the first chapter I called “The Quest.” We tell ourselves stories in order to live, and also, I believe, to make sense of what it is, and how, exactly, we are already living. 
“The Philosopher” opened the blinds on the third floor and looked down at the busy streets below, crowded with children, dirty vehicles and an ever-present sense of urgency.
It was Monday morning.
Just hours earlier, Alma Gant sat alone in a room lit only by candlelight, hunched over at a desk staring at one, single blank sheet of yellow legal paper. Hours went by as the clock ticked precisely in the background, hinting at the truth of the very temporal beings humans are. Driven by that ticking clock, Alma raced to get a word, any word, on that page.
“Words, without words I am nothing. Or am I someone without a thing to say? Without words I have no expression. When you have no expression, you have no reason. No heart. My blank slate disgusts me. The empty page of paper; it may be nothing because it is not alive. Is it even yellow at all? I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t invent colors, but I can invent my words. I can put words on paper. I can, because I am.” 
Returning to the moment, alarms could be heard going off, car horns were honking and children pounded their feet to the pavement in search of education, something new and different from what was behind closed doors at home.
Alma got up, went back to that once dark and poorly lit room, and stared down at that lonely piece of paper. At a glance, there were the words written just hours ago. They would define a lifetime that had yet to be lived.
Tuesday would be different - if not for the different cars passing by - but for the new direction her life would take. 
My eighth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher would have us write daily, for at least an hour. She called mine “stream of consciousness” writing. Here I am, nearly twenty years later, and I still sit down and write whatever flows from my mind, through my arms, to my fingers, and to the keys... as these words appear before me. 
Remember, we tell ourselves stories. But, we also can write new ones, too. Looking back at that story I wrote in 2005, I imagined the character almost trapped in a library. But, it could be anything. One change of tone, and that entire story could be comedy. 

Remember that episode of the “Golden Girls” where Blanche has writer’s block? For as deep thinking and analytical as I am, this clip is always playing in the back of my head:

1 comment:

  1. omg, that video was hilarious. a much needed mid afternoon laugh.

    i am still working on the stream of consciousness writing. it's so hard to just let yourself go and


Let Me Know What You Think...

Visit InfoServe for Blogger backgrounds.