Today, I observed Ms. Gomes' creative writing class that I'll be a guest teacher in for ten sessions this winter through Literary Arts Writers in the Schools program. She and her students saw author Louise Erdrich at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last night (through Literary Arts Students at the Schnitz program) and they discussed a metaphor Erdrich had used for character development. She compared creating a character to using those old magnetic drawing sets where you used a magnetic pen to create a face. It comes together slowly, each little bit attracting another little bit. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google Wooly Willy. I am not responsible if something dirty comes up.
At my Urban Storytellers one-on-one session today I met with storytellers and founders of Portland Story Theater, Lawrence Howard and Lynne Duddy. Portland Story Theater's mission is to build community, promote understanding, and foster radical empathy by giving voice to the real, true stories of ordinary people. Two hours sounded like a long time to meet with just me but they flew by as I talked over my story and I left realizing that I wanted to tell a different story than I had originally planned. Lynne and Lawrence direct Storytelling students to use their heart voice. It may sound cliché, but I could tell a lot of stories out of my head, and they might be funny, shocking or sad, but figuring out what is really true for me at this moment in time seems to be the real work of it, and the only muscle up for the job is the heart.
I used to craft my spoken word poetry in my head, without writing it down, there are a few pieces that have never been written down, so writing in my head isn't what feels different about storytelling. Its the lack of figurative language that poems can somehow cloak stories in that scares the shit out of me. I think in the best poems there isn't any actual cloaking going on, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. In storytelling, there's not going to be any metaphors and if there are, I know they are not going to act the same as they would in a poem. It's coming together, bit by magnetic bit I'm figuring out what seems to be the most true.
A mantra I like is: "I control nothing. I sit in my truth and act from there." I wrote it on my mirror last winter and often say it to myself, shortening it eventually to "I control no thing." It's like a very short hand version of the Serenity Prayer, just acknowledging that I am not in charge, and that anything I am worrying about that I can't control is pointless. Now, I see that I've been making a mistake leaving off that last bit: "I sit in my truth and act from there." That's the important bit, or at least the bit you get to put your hands on, the action of the story, the part where you get the chance to be the hero, whatever that means. Sometimes the hero is also the fool, more on that later.
I trust my story will take shape in its entirety in the next couple of days, and I'm letting go of trying to force it or shape it. Don't forget to get your tickets if you want to come! They usually sell out- link below. And check out all the other amazing readings and workshops that Wordstock will offer Nov 4-6.