For many people, storytelling is in the blood, part of the chemical/biological composition that keeps us going, the mental and emotional lubricant of our beings. It must have something to do with the fact that homo sapiens have the most advanced vocal chords of any mammal, and have used the verbal medium for tens of thousands of years to communicate. So we can’t help it if we like to spin things a little, turn a typical recounting of chasing a gazelle across the prairie into an epic adventure filled with man-eating tigers and aliens from another world (as opposed to the ones from the next savanna over, but that’s another issue).
I bring this up because I’ve always had a love for storytelling, and have been guilty myself of exaggerating a tiny, tiny bit on occasion (unbelievable, I know). But no matter how amazing a person’s imagination, the seed of a story often comes from things we’ve done, heard, or seen in our day to day lives. For some, these moments of awareness of the outside world–which for many writers are an epic feat in themselves as we tend to be very trapped in our own minds most of the time–turn into a romantic story of love found; for others, they become horrific tales of demons and zombies; and for yet others they become the genesis of an inter-galactic tome that millions of words can’t even fully describe (I’m thinking of you, Peter Hamilton).
One of the best ways to gather fodder for new stories is just to listen to others tell you theirs. This is one of the reasons I love Couchsurfing.org so much. Couchsurfing is a social networking site where you can offer your couch or spare bedroom to complete strangers who are traveling to your area, or look for folks who are willing to offer you theirs when you’re on the road. It’s an amazing community and a fantastic way to get to know people from all over the world. If you’re like me and hate motels, it’s the best way to travel. All of the Couchsurfers I’ve met, from as far as New Zealand and Germany, have become almost like extended family to me, and I love them all dearly.
Here at Casa Salyer, we had a couple of surfers this week from Indiana who were a real delight. Even though I’ve lived on the four points and dead center of America (born in Kansas, and moved around from North Carolina, to Texas, to Alaska, to Oregon, and now in Colorado), I have never experienced much between the Smokies and western Kansas. Now I know what I’m missing. Spending just a few hours talking with people from a completely different paradigm, generation, and life experience is like being gifted with a huge gulp from the chalice of wonder. It’s a liberation of sorts, and helps one realize how easy it is to get caught up in our own predictable trajectory. Then reminds us what a joy it is to let others tweak our frame of reference enough to get an entirely knew perspective on life.
That’s all a verbalicious way of saying: isn’t it awesome to meet new people and hear new stories? As I said, we authors thrive on stories the way fish thrive on bicycles, er, water (sorry Ms. Steinem). My challenge to others this week is to do something that makes you step outside your usual pattern, maybe something that takes a little risk or makes you a little uncomfortable. Notice what kinds of inspiration and new ideas it generates. It’s really quite a special experience.
(Thanks to Matt Robinson for use of the Fish on the Bicycle.)