Story is Music

It’s early yet and the day is gray. Behind me an old wall clock is ticking, the pendulum swinging through space, unwinding a spring, moving some gears. Objects are in motion. Everywhere there are things hurtling through space.

Within the galaxy of my mind words are hurtling through the ether of my consciousness, and subconsciousness. The writer in me would like to pluck them from the sky and the nervous, fearful, part of myself wants to create some kind of order, some kind of harmony with the words so as to calm a small part of the storm. It’s like pulling snowflakes from air and building an effigy.

The endless shuffling and reshuffling of letters, of words, creates order from the seeming chaos of this life. Even now.

What this president has shown us is that words do matter. Words, are spells. And we are so willingly bewitched. But ultimately it’s our own words, our own narratives, that matter. The stories we tell ourselves.

This is not something we are taught in school. Storytelling. It’s something we learn by osmosis. Yet every aspect of the world we live in, the world we have created, runs on a story. Story is the fuel of existence. Are we its author? Do we ever learn to write from the mind out? Can storytelling be taught?

It can. But not by standing at a blackboard. The way to learn this is to consume stories. Thousands of stories. From Homer to Shakespeare to Ursula LeGuin. And it begins in childhood with the voice of a loved and trusted parent who delivers to you these little worlds wrapped in a bow, these sentences, these ideas, this poetry.

Story is rhythm, like music, and words are notes. We learn to play by ear, and by imitation, building narratives within our brains that remain forever to be accessed and repurposed. Storytelling is not merely the conveyance of plot but emotion, feeling, the melody of experience, and often it occurs below the surface so that we’re not even aware that we’re being touched.

What does it mean to be a ‘storyteller’?

It means to absorb and release the human experience, and to do so in such a way that those who are disconnected from you relate to and are moved by the experiences you convey. The word ‘teller’ denotes speech, the human voice, so if you are a storyteller it means that your words hold up to, and make sense, when they are spoken. A storyteller is a mouth musician who creates quiet little symphonies that travel from one mind to another.

The clock is still ticking behind me. There is rhythm in the sound. All clocks and all hearts are joined for me in this perception. Can you hear it? Click, clack, click, clack. Brass, steel, wood. A hundred different hands have set the dial. A hundred different hands have wound the spring. Whose wall have you hung on? Who’s lonely dwellings have you given pulse? Mine.

 

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