Do you write to draw conclusions, or do you write to tell stories that let others draw their own conclusions?
After all my years of putting words on paper, I realize I’m only just now learning to let the story speak for itself. My background is in analytical writing based on research, and in making a case based on evidence.
Our band of essayists on a West Virginia childhood is getting ready for phase one of the writing process, and I find myself thinking more each day about the beauty and value in just telling a story.
Telling a story is not a simple thing. There are layers of complexity in even the most straightforward tale. Every few years I become obsessive about listening to this song over and over again, Telling Stories. What do you leave in? What do you leave out? Where is it acceptable to make the story the one you need instead of the one that happened? And can we really ever know “the one that happened”? There may be no such thing.
It has always been an omen for me, my recurring attraction to this song. Tracy Chapman manages to take very few words and weave a spell of the fragile balance between the lies we need, and the truths we fear, and where it all intersects in a human life and in human relationships. If you don’t know the song, I urge you to learn it. It’s a lovely piece of music with lyrics that walk you right on the edge of being lulled into comfort before it delivers a rather frightening and questionable suggestion.
My wish for our essays on childhood is that we be willing to walk that line in courage and anticipation of some great stories to tell.