Telling Tales, Writing Stories
When I was able to take public transit on a regular basis, I didn’t make enough money to afford a laptop – now that I have one, I have no acess to public transit.
I mention this because yesterday I had occasion to work in Chicago itself, and in two hours on the train I got 2500 words written. Something about the simplicity of riding, the fact that I’m in motion, seems to wake up the part of my brain that deals with plans, plots, quotes and ideas. This worked both in the light of dawn and the dark of evening, and frankly, has worked every time I’ve been on the train. I can, in other words, get more done in a single train ride than I typically do in a full afternoon at the writing-desk.
I mentioned this to my friends at Le Petit Marche last night. J suggested that I use an mp3 recorder to tell my stories as I drive, and transcribe them in the evenings. It’s worth thinking about.
When I talk about my stories, even to myself, I tend to wind up with massive leaps and gaps over the descriptive and introspective parts. I focus on the active bits where things are happening, people are in trouble, and wonderful chaos ensues.
When I write, though, I’m fully able to describe how the scene looks, to make it concrete around the action. I can describe what people are wearing, how they’re thinking, where they’re coming from in a way that eludes me when speaking.
Here’s the key, I think: When I’m telling a story, I’m aware that other people are giving me their time, and I don’t want to take too much of it. I get to the point, get it across, and move on.
When I’m writing a story, I feel that people will take all the time they need. If they want to skip over my descriptions, that’s their perogative, but I’m writing for those people who will slow down and give me their full attention for as long as it takes.
A good friend once told me I talk like John Woo and write like Merchant Ivory. It was funny at the time, and I’m not putting myself in their categories – but in thinking about the above more critically, I think I understand what she meant.
What I want to do is try the MP3 trick sometime soon, then post both the raw mp3 and the transcription here. I’ll choose something that I haven’t worked on outside of my head, a story that I meant to write a while ago but never quite got down.
That might illustrate things not only to myself, but to those interested in the process. Who knows? If it works, it might give me an extra two hours a day of productivity over passivity.
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