The Importance of Stories

I hate writing about writing, and I don’t think other people particularly like to read other people’s blogs about writing. Yet, here I am unable to resist, because I have fallen in love with stories again.

After the inauguration I lost my enthusiasm for writing, besides the occasional blog. I had been 60 pages deep in a novel I was writing, but it felt so pointless. Instead, I read the news all day, every day.  Devoting energy to a story—fiction nonetheless—seemed uselessly indulgent.  Besides, the world was being overtaken by evil, who would even want to read anything besides survivalist manuals?

Many writers used the rise of Trump as a call to action, not just for political-minded pieces, but for all art. I just couldn’t see the point. But I drive a lot. Last weekend, we went through an entire gas tank in two days, and we never left the Greater Cleveland Area.  Most of the time, I listen to audible books when I drive. Yesterday it hit me—stories, not only nonfiction but novels—show us each other’s humanity. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, Ann Pachett’s Commonwealth, even porn star Asa Akira’s memoir, Dirty Thirty, helped me understand what it felt like to be inside someone else's skin.  Small written moments, whether read or listened to, make me pause.  It’s not about escapism, it’s about connection, understanding.  Perhaps we do need art right now more than ever—the closest we can come to walking in another person’s shoes.

Right now, I’m listening to Hidden Figures, because someone (I don’t remember who) said that the movie is enhanced by reading the book first. I thought I was pretty educated on African American history for a white woman, but I was shocked by how much I didn't know. There is a difference between facts listed on a page, and facts briaded into a narrative, that reveal a deeper understanding.  Stories  unite us. Not the only way, granted, but certainly the easiest for me to digest.

So read. Read about people who don’t look like you, who don’t live near you or believe what you believe. When activism fatigue lays you to waste, as it did recently to me, let the stories reconnect you to the river of commonality and compassion that flows through all of us. And write the stories only you can write.  Write through those first thousand awkward words and keep writing until you uncover the truth that only you can tell. We need touch right now— we are all desperate little islands on our couches and in front of our computers. Let the stories connect us. 

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Copyright © 2022 Lara Lillibridge

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