What is it about the story and me?
I let the story emerge, and I let it be beautiful. My job is to get out of the way of its natural shine and loveliness. There is a white page; I listen and see and let the story out, let it reveal itself. And I get into it, inside it. I follow the breadcrumb of description, or within-me sensory experience. Don’t disregard what’s happening in, with, close to me; honour it, say it! And then the story reveals itself.
The measure of my writing is the story itself. Is it happy with how it looks on the paper? Does it feel well represented? Does it look like it sees itself, or maybe, is it intrigued that I show it in a new light? Or did I dress it in black when it wants to wear pink? Did it grow? Is there room for even more growth? Did the story and I collaborate well, was there a give and take?
What does my story want, and how do I respond to it?
I imagine a dance: I show up in the ballroom (on my laptop, with my notebook, in my head thinking or dreaming about writing something), my story notices, and it – she, he, they – also arrives.
What arrives, too, are certain songs, melodies, rhythms, tempi, certain moods, maybe how we decided to dress that night – ball gown, jeans, feathers, naked – and eventually (and often) the story and I come together and begin the dance.
We arrive at the ballroom and arrive into the dance. We start moving, just like I moved into the original question: what is it about the story and me? One question, just like one dance step, begets the next, and with that, new imagery arrives. Improvisation.
I follow the breadcrumbs, the lead of my story, and we arrive at something important, something important to the story and me.
We arrive together and dance.
The songs, melodies, rhythms are forms – short story, haiku, novel, an article – and so are recurring themes, ideas: Trees, and Death, and terrible mistakes, cranky characters, secrecy, God, song lyrics, sensuality. They all trace repeating patterns, like waltz and tango and salsa and minuet.
Sometimes we come together in discipline: “this particular waltz is not easy but goddammit, we’re going to dance it.” Then a force carries us through. We may have a sense for how the dance ends, what the final, triumphant beat and move might be (maybe the story whispers in my ear: “the shoe will drop, Isabella, and everyone will be happy ever after.”)
We come together and dance.
But often one of us gets exhausted when the music just won’t stop. “That’s enough, I’ve had it,” says the story, or more likely, I. That exhaustion, that wanting to rest. You don’t want to keep on huffing and puffing up the hill. But with hills, you can’t just drop out. At the very least you have to walk back down, or go through the humiliation of calling someone to pick you up. Or you actually huff all the way up. Hills are quite unforgiving that way. Story, on the other hand, is helpless – if I want to hop off, I can, and there’s nothing Story can do about it. Sometimes it’s the story that hops off.
Sometimes together, we stop the dance.
And sometimes – sometimes! – a thing of beauty happens. Beautiful for us, the story and me. Others dance and drink and fight and laugh around us but the story and I, there we are, looking into each others’ eyes, moving together, giggling when we step on each others’ feet, feeling the music together, gliding, jumping, grinding, turning, getting aroused, tired, dizzy, sad, inspired in each others’ arms. Others may not recognize it, but it doesn’t matter, because my story-partner is my beloved life-long companion, strong and independent, Frida Kahlo to my Diego Rivera. Maybe we’re still dancing to the song from half an hour ago when the music has long moved on. Maybe everyone else has left. It doesn’t matter.
Story and I love lining up these words – gliding, jumping, grinding. Show the range, show the paradox: arousal and tiredness can and do coexist. We adore diving into these little throwaway ideas-fragments-words and see what’s there. It’s magic! That’s where Platform 9 ¾ hides, and the door in the wardrobe where the lion waits. That’s Kaestner’s 35th of May. That’s the stuff of dreams, imagined but also real. How else would Paul McCartney have composed Yesterday? How else would Oprah have made it? Without the 35th of May, humanity would still be in caves.
These words, and the 35th of May, are night language. “Night language is the realm of poetry, myth, symbol, metaphor and traditional religious language. It’s the language that inspires; it touches the heart, moves the soul, brings us to tears and calls us to awe,” says Michael Doud.
Story and I, we dance.
On occasion, story and I dance for others. Then we dance in day language. Then it’s not so much about the dancing but about what we say to them, those others. It may say, this is how you dress to look good, or, this is how you move to stay healthy, or, this is how you place your feet and hips to win a dance competition. Our feet trace on the floor articles about psychology, health, the environment. It’s not a deep dance, and rarely do we fall in love with each other all over again when we dance like that. But it keeps us limber.
Limber, we dance.
On other occasions, I drag story onto the dance floor. I want to dance in night language but keep slipping into day language. I say I want to really learn to dance the milonga but then slip back into tango and maybe into waltz. My story is not amused and tags along for a while, then tells me off. “Get a different partner!” I stand there, confused, wondering when story will return, like Guido who beats up his wife and then wonders why a dozen roses aren’t enough to bring her back.
But story seems to like me and does return, over and over again. Story wants me to dance, wants me to dance with her (him, it, them.) Story is curious.
And once again story peeks out from behind the curtain, wondering whether I’ve shown up yet.
Then story and I, we dance.