Amid the packing and unpacking of boxes, and the inevitably-abating attempts to clear out the baggage that clutters up my wardrobe, I occasionally run across a snippet in a notebook that I don’t remember writing. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised how good it is. It’s a practice thing I guess. I wrote more then than I do now, and it shows.
Personal blogging is a difficult thing to do gracefully; the overwhelming compulsion is to share everything, and often what I want to share either translates boringly, or detracts from the point I originally intended to make. My challenge is to write in a way that people will enjoy reading. I guess I’m trying to storyboard my brain, and edit my life, which on the face of it sounds kind of mercenary.
In London I attended a storytelling evening with a friend. One man recounted a sobering tale from his term as a soldier in the Falklands war. I wondered about the thousands of people living in gruelling circumstances who just don’t happen to be public speakers. We’re so dependent on skilled communicators to connect to people and events that are physically, chronologically, and emotionally distant from our own experience. I wonder which sparked first for this gentleman: the oratory skill or the need to tell his story? I was grateful that he was there to tell it.
Many learned life skills are taken for granted. Over my first few months of sportfighting I had to learn how to follow instructions like “put your right hand on my left shoulder”. The cogs turning in the brains of new girls are practically visible - look at hands - work out which one is the right hand - move arm up to chest height - look at opponent - which shoulder? - left shoulder - no, left shoulder - put hand there - ok, got it now. Even for a simple instruction, there is so much translation between speech, anatomy and movement, and it takes time and practice for that translation to forge the appropriate shortcuts in your brain.
Too many people take communication for granted. If the internet has proven anything, it’s that we still need to learn to communicate. Writing an email is hard. Having a conversation in a forum is hard. Debating in good faith when you can’t see the other debaters is hard. Contributing something genuinely worthwhile to a conversation is hard. Reading carefully is hard. The kicker is most people still don't realise these things are hard.
Here in Heatherland, we’re still practising; exploring the balance between true life and good narrative. Working out what's worth saying, and what's worth reading, and learning the differences between the two. I’m still distilling my storytelling voice.