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Michelle’s commentary on books, digital publishing and intersections between fiction & reality

Stories are magic, and a reminder that your existence is a story too

December 17, 2021

As much as I want to put time aside and finally begin writing my own stories, I always seem to use that dedicated time to read others’ instead.

I think it’s because, in short, stories are magic. And stories will save you.

That last sentence is the title of a blog post I came across the other day on Writer Unboxed by Kathleen McCleary:

I thought writing stories would save me during a difficult time in my life. Instead, stories written by other people saved me. I realized that a critical part of being a good writer is understanding that stories are an important teacher—for both author and reader. Stories can show us how to act (or not act), how to confront our own discomforts, how to better understand ourselves, other people, the world around us, and our place in it. As writers, I think most of us are aware of how the act of writing helps us figure things out, but it’s helpful to remember that the stories we tell do this for others. Storytelling is our superpower.

I hope to one day write the kind of story that saves someone, even a small piece of them. Stories are a gentle reminder that you matter and you’re living a story too.

It sounds cliché but anytime I fall in love with a fictional character and their story, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, their narrative is just a small piece. Your story is also only one minuscule narrative, but if you can romanticize fictional lives, why can’t you learn to love your own as well?

What I mean by this, is there are moments where I’ll imagine that if I were watching my life unfold through media and I was detached from it, someone else was going through these motions, I’d love it and yearn for it. So why is it hard to love it when it’s my own existence?

On another note, stories can transport you to an entirely different timeline, which is what many of us sought during the early days (and even still now) of the COVID-19 pandemic. They allow you to escape, to forget and to dream again.

Cloud Cuckoo Land, which I read a couple of months ago in France, was chock full of amazing quotes. Here is one that’s especially applicable to this sentiment:

‘On a day like this when it’s chilly and damp, and you can’t get warm, sometimes all you need are the Greeks’—she shows him a page, dense with verse—’to fly you all the way around the world to somewhere hot and stony and bright.’

If you’re dissatisfied with what’s going on in your day-to-day life, you can escape with a story. On the other hand, you can use stories when you seek relatability and feel lost and alone.

Kathleen puts it short and sweet:

We are not alone is a welcome feeling when life is a struggle.

My favorite stories and characters are simple slice of life ones, just a glimpse into an ordinary person’s world—obviously still with a problem and resolution—but not necessarily one that’s earth-shattering and monumental.

Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that your own personal existence is a story too. That’s helped me feel happier and more at ease at least. Not every journey needs to make a grandiose impact.

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