Thursday, 10 May 2012

Talking Point: Why Do You Love Stories?

someecards.com - I like fictional characters better than real people.

 
If you've spent more than five seconds on my blog, you'll know that I love stories. It kind of goes without saying. Books are one of my favourite things in the entire world - and I also adore movies, TV shows, muscials, plays... you name it, if it's got a narrative, chances are I'll enjoy it. I have always been this way. I think it's what draws me to writing; the idea of creating my own stories is so incredibly exciting (if slightly daunting).

Aside from a love of stories, there's another thing about me that has always been true: I'm a worrier. I get anxious a lot. But over the past couple of years, for various reasons, that anxiety has transformed from a little yapping dog that's kind of annoying, but easily dismissed, into a ginormous, three-headed beast with fangs as big as a football player and a bite that's most definitely worse than its bark. Why am I telling you this? Well, the thing about this beast is that it makes me question a lot things. Things I love. Things that make me who I am.

Since yesterday, that thing has been stories. Out of nowhere, the thought popped into my mind: "Why do you love stories so much? It must mean there's something wrong with you or something is missing from your life if you have to spend so much time in fictional worlds."

I immediately dismissed this thought as irrational and completely untrue. But while that would have shut up that little yapping dog, the beast is all...


I know, logically, that my affinity for fiction in no way limits my ability to live a full life. I have wonderful relationships, a great job, I travel... I live. And I know I have always loved stories and have never really used them as an escape because I couldn't bear real life - instead, I saw them as gateways to magical worlds. A bit of entertainment. A way to learn and understand more. Mostly, pure fun. It's not like I'm walking around thinking fiction is better than real life or caring more about fictional characters than real people (much)(jokes!)(kinda)(no really). I've never used stories as a substitute for real life. They have always been just stories. Stories that I love, hate, laugh at, cry about... but at the end of the day, I close the book or switch the TV off and get on with, y'know, living.

All of what I've just written makes complete sense to me. But the anxious part of me? It doesn't like logic. It doesn't like rationalising. It just likes to tell me I'm pathetic. The worst part is now I don't want to pick up a book, I don't want to watch TV or a movie... and I don't know what to do with myself. I'm doubting my long-held dream to write my own book. The anxious part of me says, "see, you're so inadequate that you feel the need to create new worlds and new people because you're not enough." Now, once again, I know this isn't true (how insulting to all the amazing authors out there if I thought it was!) but that doesn't stop me from doubting myself.

It hurts. Because I love stories, whether I'm reading them, watching them, or writing them. But right now I can't enjoy them as I usually do -  a feeling which just reinforces the negative cycle that I somehow can't live in the real world. That I'm somehow not enough.

The truth is, I guess I do need stories. Not to survive, but, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, to make survival worth it. Because stories? They bring joy, and hope, and beauty, and inspiration, and perspective, and empathy, and connection, and understanding, and knowledge, and a thousand other things that are good and wonderful and help give meaning to life.

Now if I can only get that through my own thick head, I might be get somewhere.

Do you think stories are important?

20 comments:

  1. Stories are very important. Why? I can't exactly say. I love devouring them in any form. I think, from my point of view, that it's entertainment and escapism, because I love magical high fantasy the best in any form. It's just amazing. It makes me feel and it inspires me in so many ways. It makes me think and sometimes changes my worldview.

    So yes, stories are very important.

    About writing your own book... LOTS of people want to do it. Only a fraction of them will actually set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and only a fraction of those will actually finish the book.

    Creating your own world isn't an inadequacy, it's an expression of creativity. Hell, I use words because I'm a terrible artist and I need to get what I see in my head down. The words help me do that. My ideal medium is actually a graphic novel, but like I said, I'm a terrible artist. I draw with stick figures.

    What is it that's impending on your enjoyment of stories? For me, I didn't read for a whole twelve months after I completed a literature degree. I was burned out.

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    1. You're right. Stories make you think and affect your worldview. As my wise fiance said, "Humans have always told stories. Only now instead of sitting around a campfire, we sit around the TV- or with a book!"

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  2. Sending you huge hugs Belle! I battle with anxiety somewhat as well so I can understand where you're coming from. I think stories are a powerful device and a love and appreciation of them is nothing to be scoffed at. Some truths are better told through stories than told plainly, heck even Jesus told stories! I hope you get through this dear one, I hope you stick your nose back in books and I really really hope you continue to write your own!
    xx

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    1. Thank you so much Trinity. Anxiety is a biatch, isn't it? I was nervous about writing this post because it's so personal, but it makes me feel so much better to know that I'm not alone and have support of awesome people out there. :)

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  3. I hope you can switch off that nasty voice that's telling you you're inadequate and making you anxious because it's not helping you at all, Belle! You should write a book if you want to and you should definitely keep reading and watch movies & tv if you want to, hun! :)

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    1. I'm trying, believe me! :) Thank you so much for your lovely comment. x

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  4. There is never anything wrong with escapism - I'm much the same as you and I've been that way for as long as I remember. I love stories, mostly books but also favourite TV shows and movies and I live inside them for a lot of the time. I tell myself stories in my head to fall asleep at night, which I've been doing for as long as I was old enough to form a story and I used to think I was a freak! I daydreamed and doodled stories in class and now I still write just for myself. I know it's hard to quash anxiety but you can't pay any attention to this voice. You're awesome! Think of it as a passion for the arts!

    Besides...who else am I going to watch 2 Broke Girls with?!

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    1. Thanks so much Bree. I used to fall asleep by telling stories in my head too!
      LOL, I wouldn't want to miss out on 2 Broke Girls! :D

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  5. I love this post, Belle. It's so honest. I feel like you read my mind! x

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    1. Thanks Emily! It's such a relief to know I'm not alone :)

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  6. I have had that anxiety too and the guilt about being at home reading a book rather than going out and partying/painting the town red etc. The thing that usually helps me through it is actually something from Nigella Lawson of all people, when she was defending eating unhealthy food every now and again - "life is short, take pleasure wherever you can." If narrative gives you pleasure, take it. Life should be all about grabbing pleasure wherever it comes from.

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    1. I like that quote! Thanks for sharing :)

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  7. Stories bring magic to our lives. They whisk us away and remind us to be grateful for what we have.

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    1. Magic! Yes, stories are magic. :)

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  8. I am happy being a freak - I've had a long time to get used to it and despite regularly escaping into a book I have a husband, kids, a job, friends and a full life - one that is enhanced by everything I read :)

    Shelleyrae

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    1. That's such a great attitude to have, Shelleyrae. It's bascially how I have always felt, too, before all this anxiety malarkey.

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  9. Oh, I love this post. Especially because I often struggle with this myself. I think even if it were true - Even if your real life wasn't as great as it is, it wouldn't really be a bad thing, but the point is that people have always enjoyed stories for several reasons and few of them are 'bad'.

    In a magazine of my mom's (a psychological one, she's studied it and keeps reading those papers) I read that most people need their life to change (even if they are afraid of change) and that a static life would drive them crazy. It's not just about the obvious things like wanting to get a promotion or something like that, but that we keep "growing up".

    There are people who NEED their minds to work all the time and I think many of them are hardcore readers, too.

    Imo something people often forget is that stories make us grow up a lot. Almost everyone in the blogoversary talks about the pros of escapism, but I think it's more than that: In those stories you get to do things you wouldn't be able to do in real life, yes, you can lose yourself in them, yes, but most importantly, you have a "safe environment" to do the things you are ..unsure about. You can come to terms with issues you are struggling with in real life, you can start to deal with rejection, abandonment, pain, sorrow and you're safe to do that, because you have a safety-net. It's easier to deal with the death of a literary character - Those emotions aren't less real, they are simply less threatening.

    Alas, I ramble.

    So, yeah, the question isn't if we are addicted to stories, but if this addiction is 'bad', if it threatens our real life in any way.

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    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Patricia. I love what you say about stories providing a "safe environment" to do different things and deal with even negative emotions. They really can enhance our lives, can't they? I love it! :)

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  10. I know for me, even when I'm just writing a review, I need to have everything off. No TV and definitely no book nearby. Hopefully, this is just your mind's way of clearing it of any clutter so you can create a FANTASTIC story that we'll all be able to read one day. :) I think a little anxiety is good because it keeps us on our toes, but don't let it knock you off your feet. You're too good!

    Maggie xx

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    1. Aw Maggie, this is a beautiful comment. "I think a little anxiety is good because it keeps us on our toes, but don't let it knock you off your feet." You have a way with words! Thanks lovely xx

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