Wired for Story


I don’t know about you, but I’m always writing stories in my head. A snippet of interesting conversation, an observation on the street, a song on the radio — my brain will wheel off on a creative tangent. I hear dialogue in restaurants. I imagine plot twists on my drive to and from the office. I don’t know what causes it, but I have always been wired for story.

I’ve heard that sculptors can see the finished piece in a hunk of raw marble and that composers can hear melodies that don’t yet exist. I think a writer’s brain must work the same way, because whether I have time to address the thought or not (more often not), these stories ricochet around in the echo chamber of my mind all day, every day. I can’t help it and even if I could turn it off, I wouldn’t want to.

It’s like having second sight. For everything that crosses my path, I can invent a backstory, a character or an entire fictional world from out of nowhere. I carry around a  notebook in a vain attempt to capture it, but 99% of the stories that flicker, unbidden, into existence escape me a moment later. Those that I do manage to hold onto for any length of time are often difficult to transcribe without losing some of their organic sheen. When I’m lucky, a story that I thought I’d lost will return and stay long enough to become tangible words on a page. Those are the ones worth waiting for.

I don’t tell you this to make myself seem like I have a special ability. I don’t. I might pay more attention to it, but I think we’re all wired this way. It’s what sets humanity apart — our imagination. We all have the power to see or hear things that never were and make them real. But you do have to slow down to give it time to work. What are the moments that cause you to ask, “What if?” What would happen if you allowed yourself room to answer that question? That’s all that writers do differently. Anyone can do it.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA who has more stories whirling around his head than he knows what to do with. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his monthly newsletter for exclusive content and recommended reads.

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