I have a problem. It seems I’m addicted to stories. I read them, I write them, but most of all, I think them. I can’t help myself, all my conscious (and some unconscious) thoughts roll and swirl through my brain till they have evolved into stories. All it takes is a trigger: a sign on the side of the road, a house painted pink and purple, the woman standing in front of me at the post office. Before I even know it’s happening, the trigger has taken on a life of its own. I think in stories.
People think on all different kinds of levels. Some are very literal: pictures, words, or numbers. Others think more freely: passing fancies, colors, feelings, smells, humorous anecdotes. A writer is in a different class all together, we can’t think literally, or even figuratively. A writer can’t let a thought go until it has been completely defined. The writer feels obligated to answer the where’s, why’s and how’s that never occur to anyone else when they look at the world around them.
The first step to resolving an addiction is to admit you have a problem. For me, realization came after a trip to the circus with my family. I turned to my husband and made a harmless comment, “So, what did you think of lady with the monkey act?”
His only comment was “She was too fat for that dress”.
I tried again, “Well, how do you suppose she came to have a monkey act in the circus in the first place?”
“I don’t know.”
I had walked away from the show with a million tales spun in my imagination. One for each trigger: the blond lady with the dog and pony show, the ring master, the youngest trapeze artist, the clown with the green hair and naturally big nose. I had created a story from everything I saw. On the other hand, my husband had come away with “huh, neat trick” and “her dress is too tight”.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no cure. Once a storyteller, always a storyteller. I tried to stop myself once. The result? I caught myself creating a tale to explain away my resolve within the first five minutes.
So, what does a writer do with such an addiction? The answer: write! Give in, and succumb to those impulses. Feel free to look at the woman in front of you in line and think “I’ll bet she’s a school teacher……” then go home and write it. Or better yet, pull out that idea notebook and write while you’re still staring at the back of her head, imagining what grade she teaches.
I keep notebooks all over the house, the car, my purse. Whenever I can manage it I sneak my mini-computer in my purse hoping for a few minutes to pull it out. If nothing else, there is always pen and paper in reach, because I never know when a new story will start. Those little notebooks open doorways to wonderful worlds. Plus, they’re great ego trips. To let your mind go, let it pour out your soul, your thoughts, and your feelings, into a concrete form is the greatest high a writer can achieve.
Write it all. Admit your addiction and come out of the closet. We provide a service to the rest of the world. While some think in pictures, we fill in the fine details for them. While some think in numbers, we give them references for where the equations can take them. While some think in color, in smell, in feelings, we give them those colors, the smells and feelings in a broadening perspective. As writers we allow others to see into our worlds, the worlds of thoughts, feelings and experiences that fill our souls every day, with every new story. Our addiction makes life rich for everyone else.
If you wake up in the morning with a story in your head, and you can’t rest till you’ve given it a life of its own, you’re a writer. You will always be a writer, no matter what the occasional rejection letter says. It just becomes a trigger for another story. The one where the editor is a bitter old man who wouldn’t accept a great piece of work if it smacked him in the …… you know the rest.
You are a writer. You think in stories, the world can’t resist great stories and neither can you. Give those stories wings and they will find homes.