Telling stories

A few days ago I saw a double rainbow. I was by myself, driving home, and there had been thunderstorms, so the sky was a jumbled-up sea of grays, with the light breaking through here and there.

My first thought in seeing the rainbows was wow. My second thought was wanting to share it with someone.

Writing feels that way as well. When I say that I write for myself, mostly I mean I come up with stories for myself. That piece, that desire for make-believe is one I never outgrew. When I read books I liked, I always filled in the gaps in the story, continued on past the ending, you know, did the fanfiction thing. In my head, though, never on paper. Eventually my stories stopped being about someone else’s characters and started being all my own.

Carry enough of those stories around and they eventually want to come out in some way. For me, the logical step was writing. But the thing about writing is that it’s tangible. It’s no longer in the private world of your head. It’s out in the world of other people. Just like the rainbows, or the trains I insist on pointing out to people, even when they aren’t my son, even though he’s now too old to have an interest in trains.

Once imagination crosses that line, it becomes something else. Something you want people to see. That point, that simple step, is a huge one. The difference between telling stories to yourself and telling stories to other people is the difference between coming home and saying “I saw a double rainbow,” and coming home and explaining how the rainbows hung over the gas stations and the strip malls, how they glowed in the air over the four lanes of traffic, how they made you want to stop your car and get out and tell everyone to look up, to stop with all the rush and sound for a moment and just look up, because so many things in life pass so quickly and so often unseen.

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