One of the most nerve-wracking moments for me as a writer occurs when I hand a story to a friend for them to read. Sending it out for random editors carries its own stress, but in those instances, the connection routes through my professional side which moves criticism to a non-personal place.
I have yet to reach that level of maturity with my friends. Which adds the necessary barbs to each comment in order to pierce my being. And if the friend who snuck into the story more than I had anticipated reads it, I’d rather visit another universe for those moments.
My discomfort doesn’t stem from fear of/for the story, or lack of confidence in my writing. It reaches much deeper.
Because my stories frequently reveal my thoughts/feelings/self in ways that I have yet to learn to control. Most of the revelations, in the manner of all true revelations, are coded, but when you’re open with your friends as a rule, the code unravels quickly.
Facing a friend’s discovery describes only part of my discomfort. Because, without fail, my friends will ask: “What does it mean?”
“I don’t know” never sounds more hollow.
Regardless of its truth. The best I can do is offer my very patient friends the thoughts in my head at the time I scribbled the story onto a sharable format, with the occasional explanation of what I see in that moment.
What haunts me from grad school (besides the coffee addiction) lives in the deceptive question “What does it mean?”
What do you see?
I ask not simply from a stance of ignorance, but from a place of equality. See, the story exists in a realm where we all get to stand around and offer our thoughts as to what we should with it. Story is an idea that takes shape when people talk about them and share what they see. We pass around stories now in the form of lines/images on something solid, but we forget that at its heart a story is malleable.
Storytellers exploit the shape-shifting nature of stories in an effort to continually reveal the unseen or overlooked or ignored or forgotten or . And as a storyteller, I join in this exploitation, but the title does not confer authority. I do not write the rules everyone must play by when reading the stories from my heart/head; I write the rules the story wants to play by.
Due to the loose hold I keep on the reigns of the story during its creation, I only know what I think the story means. Which opens the door to everyone who wants to interact with the story, and means that I am very interested to learn from everyone else what the story means. After this reading. It will probably change the next time – the risk with everything impermanent.
Take the risk, with numerous people if you can manage; life has a tendency to open up unseen possibilities in the moments we abandon ourselves to the journey. Enjoy the story and the discovery of what it means!