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When the Stories Have All Stopped

What in hell do I write about today, when the world is turning itself inside out every two seconds over one drama or another? What in hell do I write as a fiction author that could matter to a reader when reality is body slamming her, night and day? We all want to escape reality with a good story, but what happens when reality feels more like fiction? What happens to writers and to readers when there is no stable consciousness to allow for the mind to elegantly slip into the place where it learns and dreams and grows fat on possibilities? What happens when it feels like all the stories have stopped?

Or at least the ones we think worth telling. When we’re traumatized, despondent. When our thoughts are just a nonsensical loop.

Well, we end up on Facebook for one thing. Or Netflix. Because guess what? We crave stories instinctively! We are trying to make sense of the world and of ourselves and the only way our wits can stabilize is to follow a narrative from beginning to end. We’ll start picking up any old breadcrumbs faster than damn ducks, hoping that when we get to the end of the trail, we’ll look up, take a deep satisfied breath, and reach some understanding that gives us…peace of mind. Stories are the metaphorical map to hope. And so, that’s what I’m going to blog about because I need the reminder and maybe some reader out there needs it, too.

Stories will always save us. All stories. Any stories. The worst kind of story will still fill your proverbial belly. The simplest kind will sort you out from the inside. The process of story is like breathing for the brain, the rhythm of the collective human experience reminding us that we are all in this together. When it seems all the stories have stopped, think about that rhythm, the beats, the musical score of a character arc; story is a dance for our imaginations. Think about nursery rhymes and those hand-clapping games we played as girls. Think about fairy tales. Oh, don’t get me started there! My first love!

Think of the first storytellers you’ve known, of standing at your grandmother’s side while her hands worked biscuit dough in a bowl and she told you the story of her own grandmother doing the same; her words connected you, a silver thread through time. Think of your grandfather’s voice as he shelled corn on the back porch and told you the tales of his wasted youth and caused your heart to back up against your spine, lest you should know such loss. Think of your mother, telling how you came into the world, a fit of a miracle. Think of the stories told by cover of dark, with nervous giggles and flashlights late in the night, of ghosts and goblins and girls trapped in mirrors. Think of desperate journeys and battle cries and misty mountains, of lost boys who could fly.

They are still there, the voices of the ages, a timeless narrative telling through us, on us, beyond us- whether we remember to listen or not. We are never abandoned, but built by them. Stories and the human psyche are nonlinear lovers. Infinite. Sometimes we must just remember to do a little listening.

Here’s the truth: When it feels as if all the stories have stopped, that’s the lie every heart should recognize. Remember? This is the place where the wood grows dark, the path twists dangerously and home is lost? What happens next? Ah, now. You know.

Tell me a story.