The more one pays attention to things, the more one notices similarities.
I’m spending a lot of time, now, writing– stories and essays, but they both have a similar rhythm. Exposition, twist, resolution. I can add more twist, or alternate twists and resolutions, or some variation within those forms, but the grand strategy of narrative discourse usually follows those basic patterns.
And then, writing tasks complete, I settle down for a nice relaxing / invigoriating / enraging game of Team Fortress 2, and I find myself telling more stories. I see a player who I know is attentive, and then I decloak nearby– he turns to look at me, I look at him and then run away, he gives chase, but when I dropped down out of sight I doubled back to hide behind the stairs, and he runs past, and…
Sometimes I do very poorly and I don’t understand why, but I suspect this has something to do with it. There’s a timing to comedy, there’s a timing to jazz, there’s a timing to poetry, and there’s a timing to being a backstabbing sneak. Trying to do well when you can’t grasp this narrative element, this rhythm of storytelling, is difficult at best.
We live in the stories we construct for ourselves– and sometimes those which are constructed for us. Maybe this is why I am so dead set on being an artist, of one description or another. It seems a terrible thing to be stuck in someone else’s story, especially with no understanding of whose story it is or why it is the way it is.
We are convinced we want wealth without ever being clear on exactly what we want to spend it on.
We are convinced we want the prettiest girls without ever being clear on why other peoples’ standards of attractiveness should be important to us.
We are convinced we want good test scores, good credit scores, good golf scores, because somehow they’ll help us to achieve these other things which we want, or which have been wanted for us, ever since we were born.
I want to be a storyteller, not a character in a story written by someone whose life ended before mine began.
Stories are control– art is control– language is control. Maybe I have a limited impact in the long term, but while you are my audience I am controlling a piece of you. I make you hear words in your mind by tapping a piece of plastic miles away. Remarkable!
Anyone who creates or communicates exerts this form of control, and many use this power irresponsibly. It is an extraordinarily easy trap to just fall into rewriting the stories which have been written for you. It is terrifyingly comfortable to re-say the things that have been said, to be a hollow person who just reverberates what is shouted into them.
Do you really mean what you’re saying? Every time something is re-said, it becomes a little bit more muddled, a little bit further from the truth that made it worth saying in the first place, so even people who really believe in something end up endorsing creepy shadow versions of what they think they believe on accident. Even if you like the story you’ve been written into, maybe a bit of editing is in order.
My message is: You have a message.
The story is: You have to tell your own story.
If you just read the script of your life, you’re going to find out sooner or later that the writer doesn’t ‘get’ your character.
Maybe, for now, you could just make some notes in the margins…