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Stories are good to have

Posted: June 3, 2014 10:30 a.m.
Updated: June 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It’s not always easy to come up with something to write about for my weekly column. I have a few rules in place. First, it must be something I’ve genuinely interested in. For me to create something interesting for others, I have to be interested in it myself. I’m a terrible faker, so feigning interest is something you will never see me do.

That’s why I never write about a topic that doesn’t interest me, like politics or sports. I have nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, against those things, but I just don’t care about them. I don’t know anything about them and I can’t construct a piece of writing about something with which I am completely unfamiliar.

Second, it has to be something honest. While I could easily construct a fictional piece of writing and sell it as an actual experience, I don’t. Something within my conscience won’t allow me to do that. Third and finally, when I write creatively I always seek to achieve something beautiful and/or sublime. Maybe that’s a Romantic notion -- John Keats always had a place in my heart -- but it’s something I work towards … whether or not I actually get there.

While discussing my need for a column topic with another writer, GC, I realized that I was drawing a bit of a blank. Writer’s block has never been more real to me than when I’m looking at an ever-approaching deadline. GC and I bounced some ideas back and forth and ended up talking about how people need stories. “Stories are good to have,” he said, “or good to make. Like making memories.”

He said he loved thinking back to unforgettable moments shared with precious people. It seems like a simple enough statement, but there is something very universal there. As people, we are all motivated to make memories. We want our experiences to seem meaningful and poignant so that we can create an authentic recollection of time well-spent … it’s like our souvenir from having lived life well.

Past experiences are the basis of stories, too. When we write, even if we are constructing a piece of fiction, we use the thoughts we recall of people we’ve known and experiences we’ve had to flesh out the characters and the places and the situations.

When we recount a story to a friend … “Oh you won’t believe what happened to me this weekend …” we are pulling from our memories to relate our situation to them in a way that entertains and informs. We do it all the time without thinking about it. It’s so simple, but so essentially human. Every living breathing soul has an innate need for stories.

I think about college and, other than the material covered in English classes, I’ve forgotten almost every lesson I forced my brain to learn. I know that “standard deviation” is something very important in Statistics, but I’m not sure if I could find it for you … without first utilizing Google.

However, if you asked if I remembered the time my friends and I dressed up like the Harry Potter characters for Halloween and went all over downtown Charleston “trick-or-canning” (a process where you knock on a door and ask the person who answers to give you a canned food item or two in place of candy so that the canned food can later be dropped off at a local food bank), I could tell you the whole story from beginning to end.

I could tell you how we raided Goodwill for costumes and how I purchased a Santa Claus beard with connected spectacles to achieve my Dumbledore look, how my friend Elena teased her hair out to achieve the frumpy “young Hermione” look and how my friend Natalia created a concoction she called “Halloween juice with blood” for us to drink before going out … that was really red Gatorade, cranberry juice and Burnett’s vodka.

Just like the past, the future is also filled with stories and memories ready to be made and recounted and shared with love and fondness and the ever-important nostalgia. I could never begin to guess what my life has in store for me and what new stories I will collect as I go along. Every chance I get, I’ll find a story worth sharing among the seemingly commonplace happenings of daily life, because as my dear GC said, “Stories are good to have.” I can’t help but agree.

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