The Power of Story

The Blank Page…

Have you stared at a blank page unsure what words to string together? What to write?

Welcome to the last month-and-more of my life.

As a storyteller I’ve always had something to say. Some narrative to share. Some thought—even if it’s someone else’s thought—to add. However, recently life came in the way. Not just snippets or bits and pieces of conflict but a huge boulder that rolled in my direction, flattened me and then continued on its tirade-of-a-journey. And I wasn’t the only one hurt. Others had been hurt too along the way. The wounds unfortunately are invisible.

So when I sat down to blog (several times actually) I didn’t know what to write.

You see my world had turned upside down. I couldn’t make sense of the world and people around me. My perception had changed… like I had been looking out a window for the last X number of years and had grown used to the familiar view outside. But when I returned to the window this time, the pane of glass had turned gray and the view changed to something I’d never seen before. I didn’t know what I was looking at and how to interpret the new image.

So when I sat down to write, how could I string together words when I didn’t know what words to use? What to take comfort in? What to make sense of? I left the white sheet blank and put it aside. (On the laptop that means ‘Xing’ the new ‘Microsoft word.doc’ and hitting the delete button. Not out of ignorance or bliss in oblivion but a new-found security—silence. Some might call my experience writer’s block or introspection. Others might call it thinking hard. I coin the experience ‘trying to make sense and re-calibrate’.

Isn’t that what we writers do with our leading characters? Our heroes?

  1. We immerse him in boiling water
  2. Watch him struggle.
  3. Then we step aside as s/he digests the emotions as a result of the experience that s/he’s undergone to form new feelings towards someone or something.
  4. We wait for our hero to re-calibrate and set a new goal.
  5. We pen down the new action to achieve the new goal and continue the journey or re-route.

Before you know it another boulder rolls downhill and our character is flattened again.

Rinse. Repeat.

Is this what I’m doing as God on the page—pushing my leading and secondary characters to the brink? You see, I don’t just roll one boulder but hurl several from all directions. And the funny thing is I’m not God, not even on the page. The story just takes over and I write what I see. I’m more like a vehicle.

My editor recently told me, “Of course your stories are complex. Look at how much (conflict) you throw at your leading character. She can barely stand up and you bring her down again.”

Does life—real life—follow the trail of fictional stepping stones too and imitate art. Or is it vica versa?

Hmmm…when was the last time your world turned upside down and what did you do to set it right?