Sunday, June 6, 2010

It All Comes Back to the Story

blog78 I have a hidden talent that I’ve kept secret on this blog.

I can recite approximately 24 Teletubbie episodes by heart.

No, this isn’t an ability that I’m particularly proud of. I know that parents are not supposed to put their toddlers in front of the magic box.

But when my now-13 year old son was 2, he took to getting up each day at 4:00 a.m….for the day. This continued for a whole year.

Now, I do get up at 5:00 every morning. But to me, 4:00 is ‘morning’ only by a technicality.

The show made life at 4 a.m. bearable for me—because my son was enchanted by it. And, grudgingly, I became fascinated too. Why was this baby’s face in the sun? What was this semi-buried spaceship house they lived in? Where were these things’ mommies? I became hooked into the story.

One thing that was interesting to me—these shows had a basic plot to them. They were designed for babies to watch, so the plot was simple…but the fundamentals of a story were there. Each episode focused on one Tubbie protagonist. They encountered a problem/conflict (LaaLaa’s ball in the tree! Dipsy’s hat isn’t the right size! The Tubbie toaster has gone berserk!) and then the story reached a resolution.

Those 24 Tubbie stories join the thousands of other stories—books, TV shows, movies, stories people have told me, stories I’ve overheard—that I’ve absorbed over my life.

We all start out that way—with fairy tales and nursery rhymes and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and the Wizard of Oz. We hear stories from our parents about the day we were born or the day the tornado hit and everyone had to take cover in the basement.

Everything is a story. I think writers frame life itself as a story. When I was a kid I loved the Dr. Seuss book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Why? Because when I’d be asked about my day at school, I thought how cool it would be to make up a response! The real day might have made a less interesting story.

So sometimes I wonder how the rest of the world doesn’t write.

Most writers, I think, avidly appreciate a good story—a book, tall tale, a well-written TV show or movie, a play. And we want to entertain that successfully, too.

Sometimes the need to focus on promo or on honing our queries…sometimes the business of writing (which is very necessary these days) can really take a lot out of us.

But then I remember—it all comes back to the story. And that’s what rejuvenates me.

What helps you focus on your writing and rejuvenates you when you write?