Tell Me a Story

Lately I’ve been reading the works of Donald Miller. Well, two of them: Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What. I liked Blue Like Jazz a whole lot more, and I realized it’s because Miller told a lot more personal stories in that book.

I think I’m specifically drawn to anecdotal writing that gives you this kind of inside perspective on a person’s life. Searching For God Knows What involved a lot more thinking and didn’t give me the same inside sense about Miller’s life. I liked hearing what it was like to hang out with hippies in the woods. I liked hearing about his conversations with friends, about what he does during his day, about his interactions with others.

Maybe it’s like reality writing. It sounds incredibly voyeuristic (without the sexual connotations), but that’s the kind of writing I connect with. I like to think it’s not just voyeuristic, it’s not just some kind of celebrity fix. I like to think it’s some sort of relational model. I want to know people (which is odd, considering my introvertedness), and I can understand and digest ideas easier when they’re presented in the context of a person’s life, through their stories and experiences.

It’s part of the appeal of blogging. Which brings up the point that there’s a fine line. I want to know about someone’s life, I want to know the inside story, but I also don’t want to know everything. There’s a point where it’s too far. I imagine it can also create a sense of pride in the writer. Who are they that everyone wants to know something about them? But I think the real attraction is not in some form of status, but in feeling like a relationship is formed, however impossibly one-sided a relationship with a book’s author can be.

This is so incredibly interesting to me, and I’m bothering to blog about it, because I’ve often heard that as a writer you should study the books you enjoy reading. If you like reading it, that’s a style you’ll probably like writing. I think this sort of personal story style is my favorite style of writing. I love reading it, and I also enjoy writing it (hence my When I Was Your Age… column).

My only fears are, unfortunately, many: 1) Does anybody care about the stories I have to tell? 2) Do I even have interesting stories to tell? It seems like the perils of my lost luggage could be pretty dull. 3) What sense of privacy is there? If I have a really good story about a silly woman at church, what happens when she reads it? Aside from the fact that people wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who airs all the dirty laundry, there’s lots of potential for hurt. And the downside is the more anonymity there is, the less personal and therefore less effective the stories are.

There’s some Saturday early afternoon reflection for you, oddly devoid of personal accounts. If it’s any consolation, I’m thinking all this through after finishing up some extra work this morning, after a fruitless search across random blogs for something interesting to read, and while waiting for a deep dish pizza to cook for lunch (the only good thing about the 45+ minute wait is that we’ll be hungry enough to eat the whole thing).

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