February 20th – “You need to keep moving forward.”

No kidding! I’ve been preoccupied with allergies, trip planning, and wrapping up loose ends so much so that I’ve let my reading and writing fall to the wayside. Noooo!

I need to keep moving forward, so I picked up a book to read. I had to return all my history books and more serious stuff because I renewed them too many times! That’s what I get for not reading them for the three months I had them.  A friend gifted me this book months ago and I’ve been saving it for a day like today. It’s short, takes very little effort to read, and doesn’t have too much plot for me to pay attention to.

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The Guest Cat comes from Japan and is about a writer in his mid-thirties who begins a relationship with a neighborhood cat. I think it’s part fiction part autobiography. I’m only a few chapters in and it’s an easy read.

What catches my attention is the author’s heavy use of descriptions in a nonlinear way. It’s something that I do and have been trying to change. I’m not sure that many readers will be able to follow my writing if I go back and forth to add layers of context and tell stories within stories. Every chapter I’ve written has been like that! When I tell a story, I leave out many details along the way and get back to them later. That’s what makes me a terrible storyteller in person. In writing, I can edit, rearrange, and add more details, but it doesn’t work so well if I have to do it live. I’ve confused a lot of people in my time!

But maybe I shouldn’t try to accommodate all types of readers. It would be a miracle if I could even get one person to read my work! It’s silly that I imagine that there will be a group of people.  The Guest Cat is a New York Times best seller so there were a lot of people who could follow nonlinear storytelling. Perhaps my storytelling style just needs a little tweaking, good editing, and some cats.

October 19th – “You can put a creative spin on an old problem and come up with an original solution.”

An afternoon jog or walk is one of my favorite things to do when I’m at work. It’s not something I practice when I’m at home because…well… let’s face it, I’m probably having a second lunch around that time! Midday runs are particularly enjoyable because I get to catch up with friends who work nearby. I hear about their latest adventures, get cooking tips, and give bad relationship advice.

There wasn’t any bad relationship advice today, but my friend did revive my interest in something old. She told me about a storytelling event that she attended recently. The Moth is a monthly series that happens throughout cities in the U.S. The events are like open mics, but the stories told must be true and do not follow a stand-up format. The current trend of stand-up focuses on short jokes that do not relate to one another, rather than telling one cohesive story. I had considered trying stand-up a few years ago, but never tried it because I don’t tell jokes well. I can be funny, but I lack the quick wit to create my own jokes or the desire to tell someone else’s.

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Storytelling on the other hand, is another craft of its own. My experience with storytelling started in an unlikely place. Like many people, I was terrified of public speaking. Unlike many people, I decided to do the worst/best thing possible by joining the forensics team. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for (and didn’t believe in) extracurricular activities for my siblings and I, so anything I wanted to do had to be free and occur mostly during school time. Forensics qualified. If you don’t know what forensics is, it has nothing to do with CSI. If I did that in high school, I’m sure that would have dramatically changed my direction in life! Forensics has to do with speech and debate.

I wasn’t organized or smart enough for the debate team, so I tried dramatic interpretations. This was pretty much the same as storytelling where you acted out different characters by changing your voice and body language. The main difference was that I did this for competition and it was brutal. Imagine high school kids trying to win something! In each competition, you performed your speech for 3 rounds. If you were good enough, you got into the final. Just like sports there were also State, National, and Invitational tournaments.

When I started, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a pretty good actress, but couldn’t find the right stories to tell. My first year, I didn’t choose wisely and performed a story that was just plain boring in every possible way. The second year, I got a good monologue, but I couldn’t make it believable that I was a mother who accidentally killed her own kid by ramming her car into him in the garage. The third year, I got an even better piece where I intentionally killed my own kids as a form of revenge for a “cheating” husband. Yes, this was Euripides’ Medea, and yes, now that I am writing this, I realize how ridiculous it sounds! How did I not see that these stories for not a good fit for me?! I had and still have no maternal instinct whatsoever. Finally, the fourth year, I found A Piece of My Heart, a tale about a young nurse who deals with life and death during the Vietnam War. After 4 years of practicing lines and facial expressions in front of a mirror, I finally made it to state championships with A Piece of My Heart.

As a teenager, I learned a lot from forensics, especially on how to overcome my fears and how to work through challenges. Looking back on it now, there are many more lessons that I can learn from it today. I realize that even though I was capable (and maybe even good) at performing, it took the right role for me to really excel. It didn’t matter how much I liked Medea, it just didn’t fit me, and I was never going to win.

The same can be said for my career or lack thereof. I’m a competent worker, but I’m not going to do well if I don’t fit in with the company/organization/institution. Perhaps it’s time to change my strategy and find more like-minded people that I can work with. I haven’t figured out what that is yet, but I think I will soon.

Sometimes I spend so much time talking about cats, food, and jogging that it doesn’t feel like I’m doing any significant. However, I can tell that I’ve already benefited a lot from this process. As a non-linear thinker, writing, no matter how trivial, helps me organize and process my ideas. I have at least 10 different thoughts going on in my mind at once and it’s often hard to filter through everything. Consequently, I am a terrible impromptu storyteller because I forget essential details to a tale and constantly have to back track. This makes it super confusing for any listener!

When I started writing today’s post, I thought it would about my plans to go check out storytelling events and work up the courage to perform at one. I’m definitely still going to do that because it is fun, will probably help me tell better stories, and improve my writing. Now that I’m near the end of the post, it’s clear that there are more things I need to work on, but they are related in many ways. I’ve only begun to remove the debris that is blocking my paths, and will continue going for lunch time walks until I find my way to one.