Trusting the Story

There are a lot of different kinds of writers, but for the purpose of this blog, and this entry, I will tell you a little bit about the kind of writer I am.

I am a storyteller. I craft stories with words. The telling of each story is a spiritual journey, and each time I take away something more, something different, about myself and about the Universe.

Stories are so much more than words, characters, events, climaxes and resolutions. Stories are gifts. Stories do not belong to us, the storytellers, no matter how hard we work on them, how many hours we spend crafting them, perfecting them. They are like our children, and we cannot try to make our children into anything other than who they are. And someday, our children will go out into the world and make their own way.

Wednesday night, at “writers therapy”/dinner with Sarah Diemer, we realized something profound. Let me paraphrase the moment:

Sarah: I’m afraid to work on [this amazing novel Maddie has been waiting to read for YEARS but Sarah hasn’t finished yet!]. I need to re-write it again. I have this idea of what it’s supposed to be, but it just never cooperates with me.

Me: Hmm. Well, maybe you shouldn’t try to make it into something it doesn’t want to be? You know. Trust the story.

Then we had a moment where the stars aligned, and our eyes widened, and our hearts nodded in agreement. Also our appetizer came.

It just made so much sense. I can look back at all my years of writing and writer’s block and see this thread of truth. When I first began to write, I was not concerned with publication. I wrote novel upon novel, and I was infatuated with the art, with the stories, with the process. It was a glorious love affair between me and the story–it whispered, and I wrote, and we shined. And each and every time I’ve written since without the thought of publication, without thinking of “What is my market? Will this sell?” I’ve had that same experience.

As a mature writer, those stories that I’ve written freely, unhindered by thoughts of profit or loss, are by far the best, most honest, touching, and close to perfection stories that I’ve told. (That’s not to say they don’t require revision and editing–they do, but it’s always very manageable, and fun) And looking back at the stories that have gone unfinished, untold, and the projects that have given me the most grief, I can see clearly that each of those tangles, each of those blocks, was always caused by the same thing:

I wasn’t trusting the story.

I would get it in my head that the story I was telling wasn’t good enough, wasn’t dark enough or funny enough or original enough, or the characters weren’t who I wanted them to be, and I would try to make things different. In doing that, I stopped trusting in the story–I stopped listening to the story. She did not and would never stop speaking to me, but I was no longer able to hear her.

I’m in the process, now, of recovering a story. I wrote her originally in a pure and honest state, for the joy of writing, and the first draft was brilliant. But in revisions I got blocked because it was then, as I thought about preparing it for queries, for The Market, that I began to mistrust what I’d created. I tried to shape it into something very different, and then I couldn’t shape it at all. Now, I’m back to the original story, and everything is exciting again. And more importantly, I’m not blocked.

With the freedom of self publishing, I don’t have to think about The Market any more. That’s not to say that I don’t consider my audience, it only means that I’m able to make the story itself my number one priority, rather than the number of people it will appeal to enough to get them to open their wallets.

I am a storyteller. I craft stories with words. To do that, there must be trust. There must be faith–in the story, in myself, and in the fact that the people meant to know these stories will find them. And regardless of profit, regardless of The Market, I must keep listening to the stories, and writing them down for all the world to discover.

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