#SOL20 Day 1: On Carrying Stories

Today begins a commitment to thirty-one days of writing. Thirty-one days of stories from my life, from school, that I am putting out into the world.

It makes me think about stories, and how very much I talk and think about them. I carry them with me, and I encourage my students to do the same. Stories are wonderfully portable. We can roll them up into a ball and stick them behind our ears, shove them in our pockets, slide them into our shoes and carry them home so we can pull them out later, stretch them out and give them some air. This is especially helpful when we hear a great story and want to keep it for ourselves, or when the idea strikes us for a story at a random time.

But sometimes, stories hide from us. We sit expectantly, pencil in hand, or fingers on the keyboard, and nothing pours out. The wait becomes discouraging. Frustrating. Maddening.

What’s hard, then, is knowing that a story doesn’t hide from us because we’re poor writers, or because we have nothing to say.

What’s hard is knowing that sometimes a story isn’t working out because it’s just simply not ready to be told. That it needs to wait until the time is right. That it’s not about us. Sometimes, just sometimes, a story isn’t ready for us. But don’t worry. It’s there, hanging out, just waiting for the right time to make an appearance. And then, if we are meant to tell that story, that story will offer its words.

What’s hardest is teaching this lesson to my young writers. To teach them that perhaps the reason why words and ideas sometimes escape us, and perhaps the reason stories refuse to come together is that THEY are not ready for US, and not the reverse.

It is not our failure as writers that we get stuck. It is not a shortcoming to feel an absence of words. Rather, we can take it as a sign nudging us in a different direction.

Today, I think I got lucky. Words came to me for this post, and for that I’m grateful. I’ve got a lot of other writing I need to accomplish today, and I can only hope the words continue to be as kind.

This month, I’m not sure which stories will come tap me on my shoulder, will come pull my sleeve, demanding for me to tell them. I’m not sure which ones will peek around the corner and beckon me with a wave before scuttling off, giggling, into the distance.

I guess we’ll find out. Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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10 Responses to “#SOL20 Day 1: On Carrying Stories”

  1. Fran Haley Says:

    First – welcome to the challenge! It will be an exciting 31 days! Second, this: You’re so right about some stories not being ready to be told. Sometimes an idea has to brew for a while (I’d say ‘percolate’ but no one knows what that means any more). This advice is so well-stated: “It’s not about us. Sometimes, just sometimes, a story isn’t ready for us. But don’t worry. It’s there, hanging out, just waiting for the right time to make an appearance. And then, if we are meant to tell that story, that story will offer its words.” It’s a hard thing even for adults to accept! Writing really can’t be forced or rushed, it takes time and the right conditions … too little or none of which happen in school regularly. How very fortunate are your students – as are we, for having you join us here!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. And yes, it IS frustrating, even for adults. So many times, I have to “break it” to my kids that most of the behaviors or struggles they have as kids don’t magically disappear because they’re grown-ups. I’d have to imagine for them it may be a little bit discouraging, but hopefully it’s also validating – that the things they feel, and the challenges they face, are 100% normal and human and real.

  2. Amanda Potts Says:

    Welcome! I love the way you talk about stories. Your last lines made me smile: “stories will come tap me on my shoulder, will come pull my sleeve, demanding for me to tell them. I’m not sure which ones will peek around the corner and beckon me with a wave before scuttling off, giggling, into the distance.” May we have a month of stories that come and go, giggle and flee. May we grant ourselves the patience you encourage in your students. Welcome!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. And…agreed! May we enjoy our time with these stories, however they choose to make themselves known.

  3. Maureen Ingram Says:

    I love imagining that the stories are deciding when they are ready for us! It is a good perspective to take, when writer’s block hits – and, yes, it hits all of us at some point. Welcome to SOLSC! It’s going to be a great month. I look forward to seeing which stories tap you on the shoulder.

  4. mlmccormick14gmailcom Says:

    Everything about this hit home, especially tonight! I love how you described stories as so portable but sometimes, not so portable from our brain to our fingertips. I’m a fellow first-timer as well, we’ve got this!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you. Glad to “meet” another first-timer. I’m a little bit nervous, but I suppose that means I’m also excited – so I’ll take it!

  5. glenda funk Says:

    I love the personification of words, as though they think and feel and decide for themselves where to go, what to do. Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”? She talks about ideas as arriving to us at opportune times and leaving us if we ignore the inspiration they offer. Ideas, says Gilbert, will look for acceptance elsewhere.

    My favorite part of your post is “ Stories are wonderfully portable. We can roll them up into a ball and stick them behind our ears, shove them in our pockets, slide them into our shoes and carry them home so we can pull them out later, stretch them out and give them some air.“

    My slices often take forms other than straight narrative. We can define “story” in myriad ways.

    Another book I love about stories is Tom Newkirk’s “Minds Made for Story.”

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you, Glenda. I haven’t heard of either of those works – I’ll have to take a look at them. I like the concept of ideas personified as you suggest as well. Then again, I personify quite a bit – most of my life is metaphor. =)

      I look forward to this month with you!

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