Telling Stories

How’s the writing going, he asks. It’s late, on the longest day of the year, and the Paris streets are sweltering. We’re shouting to be heard over the music.

Oh, you know, life, I said. Working too much, there is a guy. Was a guy. I don’t know. I’m not running either, I say, hoping to steer the conversation towards a more general, I’ve-let-things-go-a-bit theme.

You have what it takes to be a runner, sure, he said. You could be a decent runner. But you have a gift for writing. You should be writing.

Through the rosé-filtered haze, I understood what he meant. He wasn’t complimenting me, not at all. It was a reprimand. A quote from Marianne Williams came to mind: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Why do I write, I asked, back in 2014.

I write because it’s something I can do, because sometimes it’s all I can do.

But it’s bigger than that, bigger than me, or my circle of friends or my experience. My writing is inherently, essentially, inextricably personal. The people and situations and words and feelings are mine and mine alone, but herein lies the secret: we’re all desperately unique in our similarity. That we are drawn to each other’s vulnerability but repelled by our own.

That art of all forms has only ever been about translating the jumbled yarn-ball of feelings and musings and a-ha moments and despair and sheer hopefulness that we feel deep down in our core, into the form we’re most familiar with.

That the work is in the making of the art but the magic is in the interpretation.

Art is not static nor objective, it is experienced and received and swallowed by a whole, separate, wildly different person just like us.

That our stories have the power to draw out other stories; that our human experience is so strikingly similar to the neighbour whose gaze we avoid as we shuffle out the door in the morning. That our least favourite colleague suffers and delights and cries in the crawl space beside the washing machine too. That our sisters contain worlds too, that our fathers feel the deep pit of loneliness in the midst of a full life. That our bosses are scared shitless and have imposter syndrome just like us.

That we get all tangled up inside trying to work out what the signals mean. The read-but-not-replied-to whatsapp message. The furtive looks across the crowded bar. The silence oh the goddam silence. The what-do-they-all-think-of-me-really moments. The fear. The joy. The grit. The glory. The who-the-hell-am-I-anyway to be wearing red lipstick and a high ponytail on a Thursday night where nobody can see me.

That we contain multitudes, that our selves are ever changing, that sometimes we do the best we can with what we have but often we do the bare fucking minimum. That we spend our lives ‘connecting’ and ‘chatting’ but we’re all just crying out to be heard, to be held. To be whole.

That if we knew that our playing small, and safe did not serve the world. If we saw that the cracks are where the light gets in, that the unexpected, the didn’t-go-to-plan is where the magic happens. That the point, the whole fucking point is that we’re human, lonely, and that it doesn’t have to be this way.


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