Reading What You Are by Katelyn Hemmeke inspired me to start the series, Any 7 Stories From My Life. The brevity of her stories, the economy of language used to tell a long long tale, impressed me. In justifying his 2500-word story, which he published on his blog, a friend told me he needed that many words to tell his story, to build tempo and descend to a satisfying finish. Maybe he is right. I saw as I read that he could have used fewer words to tell his story. But what do I know? I have a bias for the short short story.
I do not say other people’s no for them. This means I am bold, unapologetic, and convincing when inviting others to contribute to a series on my blog. However, I kept talking myself out of approaching a particular writer because I thought the writer would decline. An anticipated no was bruising my ego and plummeting my confidence. Finally, I contacted the writer, who as it turned out, was delighted to contribute to the series. Two letters could have kept me small. When you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
The task before the writers for the series was deceptively simple. Fashion a beginning, a middle, and an ending using about hundred words per story. Regardless of whether all seven stories have a theme or are sequential, each one must be able to stand alone as a complete story. For all of us, it required practice. Good writing isn’t a science. It’s an art, and the horizon is infinite. You can always get better.
Aspiring writers should know this: I am not in and of myself interesting to readers. If I want to seem interesting, work must be done to make myself interesting. I agree. It means I must dig deeper within my experiences to find that kernel of truth that transcends race, sex, religion, and geography. Writing one hundred words about my life may be easy. But do readers want to read it?
My friend tells stories that everyone wants to hear. Although the stories are interesting and often times meaningful, they are not extraordinary. The way he tells them is beyond ordinary, a meaningful inflection, a pause, a suspense-filled crescendo, a slow denouement peppered with reflections. Writing is more than a good story. Like theatre, writers should keep the audience glued to their seat until the final curtain call.
While the series lasted, I received several unsolicited contributions. I could not honour them all. Although external validation has its limits, it spoke volumes to me that others beyond my circle wanted to participate in what I was doing, that seven short stories could have meaning and impact.
To write about your life in a way that touches others is to be vulnerable. The edits and rewrites were not merely about grammar and sentence structure. I pushed every writer to take off their mask so we could see the fear, angst, joy, love, written there. Brene Brown says that what makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful. I believe that in good writing, this is true.
Thank you Ife, Pemi, Tomi, Samuel, Adaeze, Kemi for sharing seven stories from your lives with us.
©Timi Yeseibo 2016
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