Hello! Are you writing a novel? Or perhaps a short story? Whatever the case, you’re a story-worker of some description. A screen-writer, a children’s author, a playwright. The title doesn’t matter. Whoever you are, this is for you.
Get over yourself.
That’s right. This is Alice’s motto, the password through Alicegate, and the anthem of Aliceland.
Your story is more important than you. You will die and be wormfood, a lump of bones, a smear of ash. Well, your story might be, too – but it might not. Alone of you two, it has the chance to live, to stay aloft on the hours of history, in order to live and teach hundreds of years in the future.
Still, we say we create our stories. We craft them, we put them together piece by piece, we imagine them, edit them, and polish them. We’re the writers, right? We’re the boss and the bee’s knees, we’re the shit and the dog that ate it. Right?
Well, the truth is, we’re no more than a mother giving birth. We hear the call, and the baby is seeded within us. We give it the space to grow. We protect it while it gets big in our belly. And when the time comes, we’re in a hell of a lot of pain, and then it’s out, and we’ve no more say in what it will become. Cue post-pregnancy blues.
(Sure, a mother has a strong hand in a child’s future once it’s out of her womb. Here the suckling and the story differ: once the latter is out of us, it is independent and fully learned. Thereafter, it will only teach us, not vice versa.)
Our stories aren’t our own. They just pass through our hands, briefly, on their way to greater spheres. That’s why, when you write, get out of the way.
I know. We’re tempted, every one of us, to somehow include ourselves in the story. To make that gibe at the politician we hate, to get our comeuppance on the girl who slighted us in junior high, to put a little salve on our hearts after that smarting breakup.
Alice understands. You’ve every right to grieve. But the story is not where you do that. The story is its own creature, a proud beast that must run unburdened by us.
We’re monkeys, of course, so we’re always tempted to figure out which monkey is behind which story. That’s inevitable, I suppose. Once an author hits it big, their name will dwarf the story title on the book cover. That’s our monkey nature, I guess. We grovel, fling poo, gossip, brown-nose, and do our damnedest to hide evidence of our misdeeds while putting our own name on a pedestal.
As a writer, though, please, please, please try to get over your monkey nature. Stash that poo, and forget the gilt awards. Let your story have the centre stage, and you exit left.
Write only what is relevant to the story. Write without prejudice. Write of hatred but without hatred. Write of love but do it without attachment. Write of lust and forget your shame. Write of death without fear of your own. Write with such abandon that you become annihilated in the furnace of your story, burnt with fire so powerful that even the cinders of your being are vanished.