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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tell Yourself a Story

Life happens. We were born into a noisy, bright, confusing world. We arrived without an instruction manual. Life left us to our own devices to fathom what was going on. Many of us still struggle to find meaning in life’s jumbled happenings.

That's where stories come in. As quick as we hit the ground, we love stories. First, we relish the nursery rhyme and lullaby. Soon we insist on hearing that one familiar story over and over. Parents tell stories as do others -- brothers, sisters and especially grandparents. Soon, television and the movies take over as the storyteller. Fortunate children discover stories in magazines and books. Increasingly, however, video games tell stories. Whatever the source, human beings can’t get enough of stories. We love our stories because they reveal meaningful shapes beneath everyday happenings.

The most important stories are those we tell to ourselves. As young children, we find story scripts running in our heads. And we immediately write ourselves into the scripts.

Our stories might involve adventure, triumph, tragedy, survival or hope. Whatever the story, it seeks to make sense of experience. Writing helps put anger, fear, pain, suffering and joy into a meaningful structure. The old cliché suggests that a terrible childhood is the good grounding for a fledging writer. Check the life stories of profound novelists and see if you don’t agree.

Developing greater skill, the young writer crafts better stories that need not spring from on genuine events. Collecting, combining and distilling life's confusions, the writer creates new stories -- the best of which tell more truth than any reporting of facts alone could.

So, go tell yourself a story.

DB Dewer

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