And while historians collect facts and theories, part of being a writer – a storyteller – is the avid collection of the unusual, the unique, the emotionally charged moment.Yes. And especially important, for me at least, is the emotion. I've read stories where I think "Oh, that's a cool idea/setting/spin/twist." But if the writer manages to touch on an emotion that connects me to the story, then that story will stay with me in a way that a story with only a cool factor may not. And as a writer, the only real way to create that possibility for a connection in a story is to be honest in writing it; a reader will feel real emotions in a story in a way they will not feel emotion that is faked or glossed over. Which is not to say you must have had the exact emotional experience described in a story, but if you can relate the story situation somehow to an honest emotional moment in your own life in order to capture that emotion, you stand a much better chance of making a fictional emotion ring with truth. And that's what the best stories are, to me--lies that still manage to tell the truth.
It’s a matter of putting yourself in the way of experiences, of listening when others speak, of welcoming the pain as well as the joy as being of equal value. A child’s birth: a parent’s death. A raging storm, or the stillness of a hot summer, the quiet of a rural snowfall and the different quiet of a snowfall in the middle of a huge city. The pangs of love and the embers of hatred.That. (Bolding is my addition.)
Pain is important. In spite of being difficult. Because it is difficult. Joy and sorrow are so intricately linked as to become one emotion, sometimes. I watch my children sleeping, feeling love for them and a sadness that with each day I lose them a little more to the rest of the world, and thinking with pride what good people they're turning out to be even if I sometimes miss the little boys they were. And the sweet pressure that pushes out from my heart and closes my throat and brings pinpricks of wannabe tears to my eyes isn't joy or sorrow--it's both, and they co-exist completely. They each exist because of the other.
The belief that joy and sorrow are inextricable and a necessary part of life is one thing I try to bring to every story. I can't do that if I can't bring both emotions fully to my writing, and I can't bring both fully to my writing if I shy away from letting myself feel them fully in my own life. (As with any other extremes Gilman mentions.)
Sometimes I wonder: I wonder if I didn't write, if I didn't feel compelled to allow myself to feel every emotion, to examine it and look at it from all angles--would my depressive tendencies become less frequent or intense? Would giving up writing make it easier to deal with my mood swings? Or would I merely be hiding out from life, shirking the responsibilities handed me by whatever greater force drives me? Maybe the embracing of pain as well as joy is a thing not only for me as a writer, but for me as a person attempting to live fully and understand life. I walk a fine tightrope line between extremes of emotion, allowing myself to know each of them and fighting to not become mired down in or overwhelmed by any, in a search for answers that I don't even know the questions to. When I read, I look for the strands of understanding someone else might have to offer me. When I write, I try to reach out with what I think I understand, in hopes that someone out there might be able to connect with it and use it.
A toast, then. To tightropes?