“Everyone has one good book in them” is a phrase that we often hear. When I researched who might have said it first, I found an article from Interesting Literature and the following information:
“ It’s perhaps most familiar to readers as a Christopher Hitchens witticism. Hitchens (1949-2011) was a hugely influential journalist and public intellectual, known for his quick mind and sardonic put-downs. The QI Book of Advanced Banter compiled by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson quotes Hitchens: ‘Everyone has a book in them and that, in most cases, is where it should stay.’”
So, of course, we should have known that it would be Hitchens who gave it the witty twist. We miss him for many reasons, don’t we? It is probably true that every life story is worth telling. Even the dullest or most serene human being has complex layers of fascinating contradictions.
So, in concert with the thought that there is at least one good book in each of us consider this quote from Neil Gaiman, “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”
Everyone’s Story has Interest
Because I am a mental health therapist, friends ask me if I get bored listening to people and their problems. The answer is no; I am totally riveted. I have been for more than 25 years of practice. When I hear what my clients say, I am fascinated, surprised, intrigued and impressed. This is the case with my clients, but sometimes also with myself.
I should know myself pretty well by now since I have an inquisitive nature and some training and experience. But, in fact, sometimes my own thoughts, imagination are not entirely understood by me. That is a little bewildering, but it illustrates how intricate we are. The point is, we are layers and layers of complexity, and we can use this depth as endless resources for writing our stories.
Journals Are Key
Which brings us to another point about writing and therapy. Like many in my field, I often recommend that a client begin journaling. Why? Because it helps get feelings and thoughts on paper. It places the issues slightly outside yourself, where you can examine them. It gets some of the emotions out where they can be expressed in a safe ( assuming you keep it private) place.
Journaling helps you understand how you operate. It gives you a history of your progress. You can look back on harder times and realize you are feeling better. If you keep it for long enough, you will discover patterns of behavior. For writers, it can be a great resource of ideas later on, and it can be cathartic.
We are Social Creatures
As a species, we are interested in people’s stories. We are social animals, and we tend to be more interested in stories about each other than any other topic. This is becoming more challenging as technology divides us. Perhaps it has become more important than ever for us to tell our stories as a means of connecting. Even though technology divides us, introduce a topic about a human story and our interest is aroused.
Stories prevail as our taste as a society leans towards being fascinated by each other. Ever notice that you might get bored watching the Olympics? You never even heard of curling. All of a sudden, when the announcer mentions that the defending player’s mother nursed her daughter back to health just in time for this event, and she and the family dog are in the bleachers, you are hooked. You might not love curling, but you want to see this girl bring home the win.
My partner is a huge basketball fan. When my significant other thinks I have had about as much college basketball March Madness can serve up, he throws in some human interest story about a player, and I immediately make a second bowl of popcorn and lean in.
I contend that If we randomly had a deep and honest conversation with almost anyone we know, chances are we would find something compelling about their story. This should give any writer solace; it means there is a never-ending resource for you to excavate. It means you can pull things up from your own nature that will resonate. What are your thoughts?
Telling the Story is Another Matter
We will discuss this aspect next time in Part 2, which will be published on November 7th.