Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Writer's blech and sparks

Oh, I hate this feeling. I've been wanting to write, longing for something to say, but my brain has been spinning in place and only shooting sparks. I wouldn't call it writer's block - some of the sparks have been interesting- but maybe a writer's blech. I've not stumbled upon anything to blog about. So I feel a bit bereft.

I know there are plenty of writing prompts I could use, but for the purposes of this blog, that somehow doesn't fit.

I'll tell you about a spark, how I had to capture it in a bottle and what happened instead.

Last night I attended an open mic hosted by MassMouth, a new storytelling group dedicated to bringing storytelling to those who may not have heard of it before. It was a lot of fun and located in one of the best ice cream joints around, Toscanini's. Mmmm.

There was a theme for this open mic - we each were asked to tell a five minute story about school. The spark that had been in my head all day had nothing to do with school, but as I listened to the other tellers tell I saw how this spark could be shaped into a fairly dark, short story about school violence. Okay then, I was ready to go.

When my name was picked I looked out at the audience. What had been a room full of adults before was now 40% kids. Not a group I wanted to tell this particular story to, although I believe kids need to hear stories about difficult topics. Not this story, not the way it was living in my head.

Instead I talked about the fun and fumbles of telling stories to a cafeteria full of 500 middle school students. It was a nice little piece of improvisation, a fun throw-away that made everyone laugh and was likely a better marketing vehicle than anything else. It didn't suck. It honored the stories I tell with kids, the audience I was telling to and the one I was talking about. It was entertaining. And I'm left with the spark to play with later (since playing with fire can be fun sometimes).

Was this an honest piece of storytelling? Did I honor my art, heart and craft? I'm not sure. If I were a purist I would say no, since I didn't tell the piece I was burning for. I altered my course because of my audience. But as a storyteller I have an obligation to my audience and, in this case, my story might very well have been harmful to some of them. It certainly would have violated the mission of MassMouth, of increasing audiences. It would have likely alienated some of those parental listeners. With that in mind I have to say say that yes, I did honor the art of storytelling, in it's broader application as a performing art form for a wide range of audiences. I honored my own improvisatory heart and just played a little; I honored my craftsmanship by telling something off the cuff that mostly worked. While I didn't entirely follow the muse as she was calling in that moment, I know she'll call again, that spark isn't gone. Just as I know I'll be burning with things to blog about again. Just as I found something to write about here and now after all.

(c) Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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