Everyday Stories

Ryan Vaarsi

 

The secretary where I used to work thought I was the most entertaining person in the office. One day, she told me that she was amazed at how many stories I had “for a person my age.”

To be fair, that particular weekend I shattered a mug by pouring tea into it (it just broke, I swear. I wasn’t even touching it) and went house hunting and managed to find the most incredibly terrible houses on the market (this one place… it was from 1840 and had a tin ceiling that had sagged so much the blades of the ceiling fan were literally at my eye level). So,¬†I guess I made it sound like I have an interesting life.

But more¬†stories than other people? That just didn’t seem right to me. Surely wacky stuff happens to everyone pretty evenly. Maybe other people just let the wacky stuff pass by unremarked upon.

Raw story material happens to us all the time. Everything we do or see, everything that happens… anything can be fascinating with the right light from the right angle. As writers, our job is to collect this raw material and spin it into something wonderful.

I’m always narrating a story in my head. Have been since I was a little girl. My mother will tell anyone who’ll listen about how we would arrive somewhere, she’d let me out of the car, and I’d walk just far enough to feel like everyone couldn’t hear me (of course they still could). Then, the story would start. And it would pour out of me for hours, occasionally repeating, until I was exhausted and wanted to go home.

As an adult, I have learned to tell the story without speaking it aloud. But whenever something happens to me or around me, I always imagine how I would tell people about it. I turn the story over a couple of times until I get bored of polishing it. Then I leave it in my memory banks until I have to make small talk.

But these everyday stories, they aren’t just good for small talk. They’re real stories, and they deserve to be told.

So try this: The next time something even slightly unusual happens to you, turn it into a story. You may be surprised by how great it is.

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The Writer’s Parasite

Randy Son of Robert

The Infection Begins

It starts somewhere with something simple, something almost innocent. A stray thought: “I’m not that good at writing anyway.” “I’ll write later, when I have more time.” “Writing is self-indulgent.” “I’ll focus on more important things for now.”

Next thing you know, that thought has sent out tendrils into every corner of your mind and being. It drains your energy and uses it to grow, taking up space that used to belong to your inspiration and enthusiasm. It sucks you dry. It takes the words you were going to use to write, and twists them so they tell you what a failure you are.

 

Is it Resistance?

Resistance happens whenever you’re doing something worthwhile. It sneaks up and asks, “Who are you to do this thing? It’s too important, too grand, and you are nothing.” If that doesn’t work, it says, “This is worthless. This work is pointless.” If that doesn’t work, it says, “This will be too controversial. Do you really want to spend your whole life fighting not to be censored?”

I’ve felt a lot of Resistance to writing the novella I’m currently working on. “These characters are too young to be having sexy thoughts. You will get in trouble,” it says. “This story has been told a thousand times. No one wants to read it,” it says. “This story is too feminist. If you publish it, you’ll get labeled one of those Feminist writers, and no one will ever read anything you write ever again,” it says, spitting as it speaks. “It’s not feminist enough. People will think that you’re advocating for the fembot revolution,” it says. “It’s boring. It drags. There’s no conflict. No wonder you don’t want to write it,” it says.

No wonder I don’t, when my Parasite says things like that.

 

The Tendrils Extend

But it’s not just this novella. This voice isn’t content to disparage my work in progress. It is telling me not to bother planning the fantasy series that has been struggling to get out of my head for most of my life. It’s just another fantasy series, and the world doesn’t need it. And it’ll never make me any money anyway.

This blog? No one cares. In fact, this blog is a pox on the Internet, just clogging up the tubes with its worthlessness. Who am I to tell other people to write when I can’t even do it myself?

Who am I to do anything? To try new things and maybe fail? I can’t even write a tiny little novella.

Every time I sit down to create, the Parasite goes on and on about how I’ll never make anything worthwhile. So I don’t.

 

Is There a Cure?

I can tell you about lots of treatments that don’t help.

They tell you to show up. You sit in front of the page for two hours. You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else. You sit in front of that page for two hours and let the Parasite berate you. Let it tell you everything that’s wrong with you. That’ll help, for sure.

They tell you to write something different. Write something silly, throwaway, unimportant. So that the Parasite can use that as further evidence against you. If you even succeed despite it’s litany.

They tell you to write through it. To let the words be bad, to come back and fix them later. But every bad word added to the pile is further ammunition.

I have tried listening to it. Letting it say what it has to say, and trying to argue logically with it. But it isn’t logical. You can argue all you like, but it will just repeat its points over and over until you have exhausted your will to fight.

There are treatments that help, a little.

It helps to name it for what it is, but that isn’t a cure.

It helps to admit how it’s hurting you, but that isn’t a cure.

It helps a little to write about it, like I’m doing now. But it also hurts, because then you associate writing with more pain.

It helps to disidentify as a writer for a while. To call yourself something else, to put your dreams on the shelf and say you’ll come back to them later. And maybe you will, but is it really worth it? And there’s no guarantee you won’t be reinfected as soon as you pick up the pen again.

 

I Wish I Had an Answer

But I don’t. Do you?

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