Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We're Addicted to Stories

As readers, we've all been there.  We're reading this amazing book and we are drowning in it.  You just can't put that stack of paper down.

After you finish, there is a bittersweet moment.  The ending was so good, but its over!  Why does it have to be over?

So, you go off in search of another book just as fabulous.  You either search the shelves, read reviews on Amazon, or type frantically, just waiting to get that "high" again.

But it doesn't come.

So you spend hours upon hours looking for something else that will give you that same high.

Okay, you're starting to see my analogy.  No, books are not as dangerous as drugs, but I think something needs to be said about story addiction.

I have been in that same boat.  I read those fabulous, sigh-inducing, heart-pounding stories and want nothing else but to jump back into the world and escape the one I'm in.  And as a writer, I also have the ability to explore worlds I create with my own imagination. 

I have felt the pull to write all the time, to really dedicate my life to the creation of a story that will make your chest tighten with anticipation and your heart sigh for the characters. 

I've mentioned more than once my personal mantra when it comes to writing: don't let writing take over your life.  Maybe I'm taking that too seriously?  Am I also going too far when I say that we can't let stories rule our lives. 

Many would be aghast, wondering what sort of writer I am to discourage stories. 

Reading and writing and even movies, stories really, can be very dangerous.  I've seen many lose themselves to the pursuit of publication or get sucked in to books.  They sit in the middle of a party reading (you know who you are).  Taken too far and stories can be destructive to our lives.

But writing also frees us from the confines of reality and allows us to pursue learning in a way that is not easily replicated in other ways.

So, at what point does the pursuit of a good story become harmful?

When you start depending on the fictional world to face reality, there is a problem.

I love stories.  I will stand up for stories in almost every situation, except this one.  Stories help us understand reality, but we cannot use them as an escape from it.  Stories should supplement, enhance, develop, deepen, and beautify life, but you should be able to take them away and still be able to function.  Because when it comes down to it, the place where we leave a lasting impression is in the here and now

Our culture knows that stories can be addictive.  Nothing else sucks us in with as much power.  Video games, movies, books, news articles, commercials.  Marketing directors everywhere know that people are drawn to something with a narrative.  Just take a look at our Super Bowl Commercials! 

I think its a coping mechanism; we have a difficult time dealing with the ugly reality life sometimes puts before us.  So, we go to alternate realities in which we can find people to sympathize with, explore what we wish we could have, or just escape the daily grind.

As someone who has dedicated a significant portion of my life to understanding and appreciating story, I have more first-hand experience dealing with the addictive nature of stories.  I get it.  I have fallen prey to its enticing clutches myself.

I've also seen too many people live their lives sold out for stories.  That's all that consumes their life.  Real life relationships become secondary.  And I find it just sad.  Life is too beautiful to be lived within in the limited...yes, limited...world of your imagination.

Soli Deo Gloria. 

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The Creative Elite
Musings on the Writing Life
On the Writer's Stereotype
The Test for Every Writer