Friday, March 9, 2012

Story Junkie

Some time ago, in the past, which is all a blur and I really couldn't tell you whether it was weeks or months, a whole bunch of writers on twitter all tweeted under the banner of "Why I Write."

I seem to recall saying something along the lines of, "I write because it's the least self-destructive addiction available to me."And someone remarked that my response was strangely out-of-character and dark, rather than perky and funny.

Oh, the internets. Some day we will talk about the difference between being personable and personal, and how if you want to have a public persona you need to figure out the line you want to walk and how much of yourself to give, and realize that the balance will shift constantly in relation to things you could not anticipate.

But today is not that day. Today we are talking about STORIES.

When I was younger (and even still now), it baffled me that people didn't love to read. Why wouldn't you love to read? You get to go into a world that isn't yours, into a head that isn't yours, into a life that isn't yours! You get to live that adventure, and then you get to put it aside, but you can go back to it any time you want because once you've read it it's yours. What about that isn't amazing?

I also assumed that everyone had narratives going constantly in their heads, stories they could pull up when things were dull or sad or lonely or when they couldn't sleep. Stories they could slip into like a second-skin, like a well-loved movie, like a song you can sing without even thinking about the words. Stories that served no purpose other than to be lived in, played with, run through again and again until there was nowhere else to take them and another story settled in to that empty place behind the eyes.

Because that empty place? That's a dangerous place. That's the place where, if nothing is there, the negative thoughts pool. The thoughts that say not good enough, not doing enough, wasting time and energy and potential. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Don't really deserve to be loved the way the people in my life love me. Those thoughts are like stories, too. They wait for you to look at them, and then they pool and pounce and circle, cycling through the same narrative of worthlessness over and over again.

I don't know if everyone has that spot behind their eyes, the one that gets heavy and aching with the burden of self-loathing. But I have figured out that if I can fill it with other things I can shut it the **** up. (Yes, I just said shut it the asterisk asterisk asterisk asterisk up. I apologize for the strong language, but sometimes a girl just has to slip in an asterisk!)

School was good for this. Love and religious faith and happy relationships and wonderful husbands and amazing children are good for this. But it's a rather large spot to fill, and sometimes the dark and poisonous things manage to find little spongey holes and seep in to try and take me away from the good things that I've filled myself with.

This is the glory of story: it moves me away from focusing on myself. It shifts my brain's tendency to obsess away from me (and my shortcomings that could fill novels in and of themselves) and onto something else. I don't want to be those stories, don't want to live in any life other than my own. But stories that come from inside, that I create and control, they fill those sponge-hole weaknesses better and longer than anything else, leaving me free to live in my life and enjoy all the good things I have. When I have a story to fall back on, there isn't time between living and dreaming for any drowning.

Yes, stories end. But the best thing about them? There is always another one to be told. And if I am creating and imagining and writing during the empty times, I don't have any room in that spot for anything telling me I am less than I am. I'm a wife, and a mother, and a friend.

And I'm a storyteller.

27 comments:

Becky Wallace said...

Lovely post that so many of us, writers and others, can agree with!

Anonymous said...

You took the words right out of my head. That is exactly why I love reading. You did a great job at doing that during Paranormalcy, I usually find myself narrating my life, "I focused on not falling down the stairs, and breaking my tailbone, for the third time." Then I realize what i'm doing, and shut up the little wanna-be author in my head. Oh, and we forgive you for the strong language 8). Oh BLEEP!!

Makayla A. <3

Zoƫ Marriott said...

Holy ****! You took the self-loathing words right out of my mouth! I call it 'The story hole'. It's like there's some horrible defect with my brain, a gap that inevitably fills with doubts and fear and unhappy memories, unless I can stuff it with stories first. Normally people give me really strange looks when I try to explain this. I'd better RT so that everyone can see it's not just me!

Christina said...

This is such a lovely post. That's exactly why I read so much as a child and kept a notebook to scribble in throughout high school and college when I was awkward or lonely or bored, because telling stories or having them told to me is probably the healthiest thing an overthinker can do with themselves. I've always had a hard time articulating why I love and need stories, but this is perfect. I identified with it so much I teared up a little...which is ADMITTEDLY WEIRD BUT I'M SLEEP-DEPRIVED IT'S FINE.

Tina Moss said...

I have nothing brilliant to add. You said it all. *hugs*

Katherine said...

Can I just say that you have shown me that I'm not alone. When I was little, those characters/worlds in my head were such a necessity to slip into. I didn't really have control over it, didn't really understand it, and I felt like a freak. But I was *so happy*. Now, at 16, that's all been taken away. All that's left is the depression that's swallowed me whole.
Thank you, so much. Someone gets it.

Kiersten White said...

Oh, Katherine, I'm so sorry. My teen years were my hardest. Please talk to someone you love about this. There are many, many resources (not all or even most of them medication, though that can help, too). I'm thinking of you and hoping you find a way to get back to yourself.

Matthew MacNish said...

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one.”

- George Martin, A Dance with Dragons

midnightblooms said...

This. EXACTLY.

Amber said...

I understand perfectly! So well put, THANK YOU

Savannah J. Foley said...

This is why I love you, Kiersten. You pull a clear meaning out of all that noise buzzing around my head. I always read your articles and think, 'Yes! Yes, that's it exactly.' Which is, of course, the mark of a true writer :-)

Sarah said...

Aw. Wonderful post.

Hannah Hounshell said...

I love this. I was always the kid who had her nose in a book(or sketch pad) and was looked at cross-eyed because my family didn't have a tv(we got one eventually, but not till I was about nine years old).

I loved books for that same reason: you could step into a world not your own and live the story for however long it lasted. The best part was you could always go back, and you could do so whenever you liked.

This post just says it all so perfectly. I love it. :D

Becky said...

I love reading your blog because of posts like this. It's always nice to know that there's someone else out there who "gets it" and understands why reading and writing is so wonderful. And who understands the constant narratives inside your head, of course. So for that, I thank you :)

LauraN said...

I think that videogames must be a poor substitute for those who can't run stories in their heads. And Katherine--losing your stories is a "symptom" not just a fact of life. Stories don't vanish. They're in there. You have to find them somehow.

Rebecca T. said...

I'm SO relieved I'm not the only one who has stories waiting in their brains for those times when they're bored or can't sleep, etc. It's such an escape, but I never thought of it the way you put it here. Of course, as is usually the case when I read one of your posts, this is exactly what I think! Yeah for stories!

mary said...

wow. Well that made my day. Im not going to say you took the words right out of my mouth (they are your words after all) but I will say this, its like my brain is a dark room and posts like these turn the light on again. Thanks so much :)

Megs said...

:) Love you. :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. You're absolutely write about stories taking us out of ourselves. It's what we all love about them! :)

-Christine from Arizona

Redefined Possibilities said...

Kiersten - I enjoyed the Story@Home 2012 conference this weekend in SLC. While there I met a red-headed young woman by the name of Stepper, and enjoyed a presentation from a young man named Rustin Banks. As I was visiting with Stepper - discovered that she grew up with you as well as Rusty! Small world we live in. Hope all is well with you and your family.
Ann Packard

Whirlochre said...

If not for stories, there would only be...the truth — and most of that is made up.

Kathryn Purdie said...

This describes so well why I started writing in the first place. You have articulated it better than I've ever been able to.

Myrna Foster said...

I so get this. It's nearly impossible to explain to someone who isn't the same way though.

Anonymous said...

YES!

Tamara Epps said...

I am so glad to discover that I was in-fact not alone in reading and imagining stories when I was younger (and I still am). Reading, Writing and Crafting are what keep me away from that nothing space which I know so well.

HannahDanielleStewart said...

Writing, at least to me, is a form of OCD. When I get an idea it pokes at me with a stick until I get it out. Sometimes I fight it, like when I'm really busy or not in the mood, but the idea always wins.

Becky said...

I know you wrote this ages ago, but I wanted to say thank you. This post is amazing.