I guess part of me has always liked to tell stories. As a kid, I was usually the one interrupting my sister, or even my mom or dad at the dinner table in order to tell my side of the tale. I did this in class, too, resulting in a frequent comment on report cards: “very bright, but talks too much in class” or the similar but more succinct, “intelligent but disruptive”.
Once I learned to read, I realized I loved hearing the stories of others, true or not, as much as I liked to tell my own.
When I was a child, my dad traveled a lot for work. But sometimes he would take me, or both me and my sister along with him to Medford, Ashland, Ocean Beaches, Sunriver, Roseburg, John Day….All around the state, really. And he always made sure he stopped someplace fun for us. But as we drove, he often started a game we called “progressive story”. One of us would start telling a story, and leave off with a big, suggestive, “and” to signal the next person it was their turn to take over.
For example, “There once was a king who lived in an enormous castle. But he was a very, very short king, and the castle felt like a veiled insult. So he decided, after having been king for several years, that he was going to build a very small castle that would be more sensible, AND……”
At that point, the next person would take over and the story would meander all over the place, as none of us ever knew where the other people were planning to take the story. This game was where I learned that a story, no matter how far off its original trajectory, can always be brought back in line. I often had an agenda for our progressive stories, and so no matter where my dad or sister tried to take the story, I would be constantly attempting to force it back to where I wanted it to go.
It was, although perhaps unknowingly on my dad’s part, one of the formative experiences of my childhood. That, and spending hours with my sister in strange hospital waiting rooms while my dad was in surgery, helping the surgeon test out some of the new surgical equipment he was selling.
Before that, when my sister and I were too young to go on trips with him, he used to record himself on tape reading us stories or, more often than not, making them up. Off the top of his head, most of the time, they were usually based on the two detective siblings who were always solving mysteries: Jenny and Ethan. They were vaguely disguised versions of my sister and I. Although if I remember correctly, Jenny was older than Ethan, and she (just like real life) had much more common sense, while Ethan seemed to be able to remember everything that happened and find clues everywhere (less like real life, but at least somewhat accurate).
Obviously, my dad was good at being a dad. He still is, in fact.
But this post isn’t about that.
It is about stories, about narrative.
You see, I am in the process of writing my first novel. It is based on my own life story, sometimes very closely, other times quite loosely. Names, dates, places…they are all going to be altered at least a bit. Some things will be left out. Other things may be embellished. But the bulk of the story will be based on actual occurrence.
I’m writing it in the first person. And it is very, very personal.
I thought, perhaps, that the telling of my own story would be difficult. That with all the *excuse my language* shit I’ve done and all the shit I’ve put others through…well, it would be easy to be ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my story. To see it as worthless.
But the more I have thought about it, the more I see how my story might benefit others. Not just those who might be struggling with addiction. Also anyone with CF or with any sort of chronic illness. Anyone who wants to be a writer. Anyone who feels different. Anyone who has been picked on or made fun of, or generally mistreated by others. My story could help raise awareness for CF and for the dangers of opiate medications. It could also help people see the disease of addiction for what it is and what it isn’t. For addiction is truly a disease of the body and the mind. But it is not a moral failing, a weakness, or a selfish quest toward self destruction. Most addicts don’t want to keep using. Once we know we are truly addicted and we try once or twice to quit without success, most of us begin scheming, trying to figure out some way, any way, for us to get out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. We try doctors, psychiatrists, therapy, rehab, and sometimes we go to jail or to mental institutions.
Either way, we want out.
Often times, it is just very hard to see how that might be possible.
For those with a story like mine who feel caught in the cycle of disease and pain and addiction, my story just might give them some hope that recovery, health, and life is possible. That the cycle can be broken under the right circumstances.
That they can break free, and regain the humanity that is so quickly lost in the living death of addiction.
I thought writing my story would be incredibly difficult. Instead, because I have a purpose now in writing it – because I can see that it will benefit others – because I believe that my story is interesting and meaningful, and offers a new look at some of the issues faced by my generation – because of all these things, my story has been no more difficult for me to write than this blog.
Of course, I pay more attention to grammar, word choice, paragraph breaks, transitions, flow, and style. It will, after all, be my first book.
But I still write what I need to write, and thus far I am enjoying it.
The only thing I think I need to do is to schedule a particular time in the day to work on my book. Like say, 2-3 hours every day in the morning. Plus once a week I will need a longer stretch so I can finish the chapter I am working on and then go back and edit it.
That long day for Chapter One is going to be today.
But because I have no idea how long it will take me and because I have errands that I need to do at some point, I may end up having to stop, then come back to things. I have been endeavoring not to write a night, to keep my “work” separate from my play and to leave me time to relax so that I can get to sleep at a decent time.
But perhaps one or two nights a week it wouldn’t hurt to do some work on my book. Sometimes I think better at night anyway.
I started a Kickstarter project for my book to help me get it published once I have finished it. I will post a link here once it is fully set up so that you all can take a look, and consider making a donation if you’d like. No pressure of course. The book will be written no matter what. I just could use the Kickstarter funds to hire an agent to help me get the book published once it is finished.
Now back to the grindstone 🙂
Thanks for reading everyone, and Peace to you,
- Celebrate National Storytelling Week with Wales’ legends, myths and tales (visitwales.co.uk)
- Why Startups Need to be Great Storytellers (markevanstech.com)
- Storytelling secrets for public speaking (slideshare.net)