In a small town, nestled comfortably in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, the Lindsey family settles down to a table at their favorite pizza parlor. Smells of melting cheese, pepperoni and freshly baked dough float amidst the carefree atmosphere of a calm Sunday afternoon. The Lindsey children’s mother cuts their pizzas into smaller bites, as any great mother would do, whilst their father graciously cleans up some spilled water. Through mouthfuls of pizza the three young Lindsey children excitedly talk about the earlier events of the day. A loud chuckle from an obtuse, not so gentle-man, behind their table interrupts this happy family affair.
“Wow, three kids! Can you afford them?” He says, clearly lacking tact and proper procedure of human introduction.
Mr. Lindsey sits silent with eyes like daggers. His lips pursed tight to keep in the profanities he’d like to share with the man. Mrs. Lindsey smiles politely at him pretending to laugh it off. All while watching the stranger, who’s uncomfortably close to her children, like a mama bear who won’t hesitate to tear him apart.
The rude man’s wife nervously covers for her husbands faults by sharing how they raised three kids, all boys. After an awkward pause she scoots him along to the counter to order their meal.
I was almost inspired to write a whole post on what not to say to parents. Like most people, I don’t appreciate strangers asking me if I can afford my children, especially while my children are present. But thanks to Mr. Social Ineptness, my husband and I now had a topic of conversation for our 25 min drive home. Having the relationship I want with my children takes depth. To put a price tag on my children would make that relationship skin deep. This brought about the idea of what being a writer makes you confront. The man at the pizza parlor probably hasn’t done much soul searching. And in turn, if he were to write, what would he have to say to humanity? A crucial aspect of what makes a good writer is the ability to confront issues most people hide behind, which otherwise get passively projected onto others. Not only did that man’s comment lack depth and human connection, he projected his own insecurities of being a provider unfairly onto my family.
If you can’t dissect yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s going to be hard to write something others can relate to. And that’s the point right? We read stories or watch films because we want entertainment. We fall in love with those stories when something within them connects to our souls. As if they show glimpses of all the hidden secrets of the universe. Stories like that are written by people willing to dig deep down inside themselves. Openly exposing every dark crevice they find so the good, the bad and the ugly can transform into a greater human connection.
If you want to be a writer, beware. Writing makes you confront things you might not want to, or maybe didn’t even know existed (it’s quite possibly the cheapest form of therapy out there). And if writing is not making you confront such things, you may want to rethink your story. Everything has already been done. It’s what we take from ourselves that makes it new. What is your story adding to the conversation? All of us have something to say, things we’ve learned that can push humanity forward. You just have to be willing to go there.
Next week’s post I’ll use this same pizza parlor situation to discuss creating gaps.