All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Birthdays and Stories

Yes, I admit it: Today is my birthday. Check off another lap around the Sun for me, along with a year's worth of fun and adventures. And also, this birthday makes me think of past birthdays and their various adventures. Did I ever tell the story about the birthday I spent on crutches? What about my 30th birthday? Or how about when I turned 21 but was on heavy medication and the doctor told me absolutely no alcohol whatsoever... and then I had half a beer because, well, 21? Those are all some great stories.

I am not going to tell you all those stories right now, mostly for one good reason: while all those stories are great, they wander around everywhere like a litter of kittens getting out of their box, and that kind of ruins good storytelling. Sure, a box full of wandering kittens is adorable, but it gets out of control quick and loses all focus. This is the curse of storytelling, and a trap that it is easy to fall into.

What am I saying? Simply put, every writer has an urge to not just tell a story, but to tell all their stories. They want to do a lot of things all at once, and try to talk about how wild their birthdays get by making reference to every crazy event that ever happened. At that point, the kittens have all escaped and it's anyone's guess where the adventure will end. All the stories will likely be amusing and serve a purpose in some way, but there's a better way to do it.

If I was to describe how dramatic my birthday time can get, I would sharped the focus to one specific story and stick with that. I can bring up other points from other occasions, but I would need to check myself real quick to make sure my writing didn't wander away from that one target. If I want to reference that time I got pulled over for doing 80 in a 55 and used the birthday excuse to get off with a warning, I need to make sure that my reference is brief, that it specifically hinges to the main point, and that I go right back to that primary story arc, which should be stronger now that I added that extra reference. If it doesn't satisfy those criteria, I might want to consider whether I really want to add that into my main story or just write another story strictly about that event.

Needless to say, this applies to more than just birthdays. I have encountered plenty of writers who want to write "the story of their life." My response to them is usually along the lines of, "Excellent. Now remember, your life has more than one story. It has thousands. Which one do you want to write about?" When they give me that baffled look, then I go into the discussion of telling one story well, or telling a few stories that center along a theme. One of my most rewarding experiences was helping someone write the story of their life, because the main goal was sharpening their focus to writing about their experiences in World War Two. There were still a lot of stories to tell, but keeping them all around that particular part of his life and tuning into those moments made for a much more telling story.

So, as I head off into another year of fun and adventure, I make the following birthday wish: I wish upon an everyone a year worth remembering, and worth telling others about - preferably with a smile on their face.

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