Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who Controls Your Narrative?

"Story Road"Image by umjanedoan via Flickr
Whose story, or voice, do you believe more than your own?

Writers, Actors, Lawyers, Priests, Psychologists,  (and more!) all have an innate curiosity in human nature, and an appreciation of a narrative arc, of story.  Telling stories has always provided meaning and hope in a sometimes bleak world, in a world where more often than not, things are not going to stay contained in a perfectly presented package.

Life is messy and confusing.

My middle grade students love creating universes in which they have the ultimate control. Do writer's then, need to always control the narrative?

Many family members of famous writers have been hurt by a version of their own reality jumping out on them in a page of fiction or memoir. I am almost hyper-sensitive to this, having Madeleine L'Engle as my grandmother. And I know that even though I ask my kids' and my friends' permission before writing anything about them, I am bound at some point to get somebody else's story wrong.

We must tread lightly, we writers of fiction, of memoir, of truth in story. A writer's truth isn't the only reality, and perhaps that is why I am so interested in both reading and writing things that come from multiple perspectives.

Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley blew my mind as a young teen, and made me look at "story" in a totally new way. I began to grasp the concept that who is telling the story is just as important as the story itself. King Arthur and Morgan LeFay aren't the only one's who see the world through completely different lenses.

So. Instead of thinking in terms of who controls the narrative, I invite all of us to find our own voices, our own personal narratives, by embracing an almost Darwinian adaptability.

And no, I don't mean being uber-competitive, or giving up because you'll never be John Green.

I mean the opposite: in order for our species to survive, we must persevere in the face of distraction and rejection.

I can't write today because . . . it's too noisy, I don't have time - between the kids, teaching and the soul-sucking vortex of social networking . . . and I bet you have your own obstacles, but I challenge you to adapt your distractions into your writing, to use the pain of rejection to fuel your narrative in a positive way by not breaking your spirit, to use your imagination to look at the story of your life and the lives of others in new ways. (This will develop compassion and forgiveness, I promise!)

Teaching also reminds me that honing our writing skills deepens our connection to humanity. In a workshop last week, we were "distracted" by a Music Together class. What did we do? We used the distraction, we played a writing game which incorporated the music class. So, rather than be annoyed, we were liberated by this expansive attitude. We adapted to our environment.

Words from my Higher Self: Don't tighten your grip on your narrative. Wear it like a loose garment, let it breathe.  Trust that your voice is unique, even if your story isn't. And don't forget to let others share their own voices in your story with you.

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