I’ve nibbled on Christina Baldwin’s Storycatcher on several occasions. This book is like a pot of cream soup — flavorful, rich and nourishing, and hard to quantify. But I finally “get it.” When I began reading, I was wearing my author hat, looking for yet more tips on how to write stories or memoir. This book is larger than that. It isn’t a book about writing. This book is about Story, not stories.
The concept of Story transcends events that fill stories. Story is life itself. It’s the lens we use to define the essence of who we are. We all have a Story, though few of us are aware of what this may be. It’s our measuring stick, our comfort zone, our boundaries and guidelines. It’s the sum total of our experience, beliefs and values.
I stand in awe of Story. It’s there are surely as the air I breath, but like the fish in the ocean, because it’s just there, I never noticed.
Grasping the significance of Story is like finding the jigsaw puzzle box cover and glimpsing the potential of the pile of pieces to turn into a coherent picture. Using this metaphor, the short stories we write about experiences are parts of the big Story of Self. A sense of Story pulls our “little s” stories into alignment and sharpens their focus while also connecting them together.
Each chapter of Christina’s book describes a different facet of Story. She concludes each one with a related writing prompt, then urges readers to “Tell me that story.” Like soup, Story has no boundaries or form. It can start anywhere and fills the chosen container. It can be told, tailored to the time available, written or filmed. It can be shared, or appreciated in isolation.
The Story Soup of You has many ingredients including events, experiences, encounters, characters, conflict, triumph and failure, emotions, reflections, beliefs, opinions and values among many others. Should you undertake to pour your story out onto the page, it will likely oscillate between two forms: stories focused on events and experiences, and essays focused on beliefs, opinions and values. Both forms are essential. Stories pertain to action, essays to reflection. The two forms are the warp and woof of the fabric of Story and life.
Write now: look beyond the page. Imagine yourself high on a ledge looking down on this person below who happens to look like you and bear your name. Observe that person and tell that person’s story. What does she believe? What gets him going in the morning and keeps him going through the day? What stories does she tell herself to keep her doing what she does, day in, day out? How does he feel about what he does? What makes her different from her neighbors? Tell me that story!