Writers Are Collectors And We Make The World Interesting

Drew Coffman
Drew Coffman

We are all collectors. You. Me. Your mother. The busker on the street. Collectors of sight and sound, of taste and smell and touch. Collectors of emotion, of joy and pain and everything else in between. We keep adding on to our collection until the earth from which we collect embraces us one final time. And then we are no more. Yet, when we write, we become collectors of something else. We become a collector of stories; the storyteller we imagine ourselves to be as everyone else huddles around the literal or figurative campfire to listen. And the stories, whether true or made up, are what that remains long after we are gone though they too would, eventually, fade. We tell stories all the time, and with today’s social media, now everyone’s a ‘writer’. From snappy updates (bungee-jumping into the mouth of a volcano #YOLO!) to long winding walls of texts (this one included), we tell stories everyday, of ourselves and those around us (it’s mostly a me, me, me thing though and whether people actually care is a separate issue)

The boy running down the street may well just be late for the bus, but to the storyteller; oh the storyteller would put forth a gentle suggestion that perhaps, just perhaps (even if the possibility is slimmer than say, the end of the world), he is running after the love of his life, the one who just slapped him a few short minutes ago while crying, saying he could never love her the way she needed him to, and he runs after her to explain, to tell her. Well of course, the realities of life would just have said boy running late to class because he woke up 42 seconds later on the day the bus arrived 42 seconds earlier.

But the thing writing does to a person is interesting. A writer constantly seeks for inspiration and usually draws it from his daily life. However, there is the danger of wanting something, anything, to happen for the sake of the ‘story’. For example, why does the writer feel a sort of subconscious, indescribable glee when something happens? Finding oneself lost in a new city or watching a car crash in front you may be thrilling for many reasons but perhaps none more so for the writer because now he has something to tell you about at the bar over a couple of beers. He has now what they call a story. In a way, a writer is always hungry, wanting more, both the good and bad, for his craft. It may come to a point where you cannot be sure anymore, whether the emotions you’re feeling are the writer’s or just yours. Say you travel to a foreign country and all sorts of things happen; you’re stopped by the local police, you sleep in the train station like a hobo, you miss your bus, thereby forcing you to hitchhike with some stranger in the middle of the night, etc. Does it all seem really exhilarating solely because of its happening, or because of the stories you’ll be able to tell after? While it’s usually a combination of both, it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. In short, does the thought of having the story of the adventure supersede the adventure itself? How many times do we mentally try to think up of a witty ‘status’ to be updated on Facebook later on the second after something awesome (or otherwise) occurs?

Writing also shifts the author from being the player on the stage to a member of the audience, from participant to observer. It disconnects a person from the experience, as the writer is too busy trying to find the words to describe the scenes before him, very much like the person next to him whipping out their smart phones in the midst of a flash mob to record it. In trying to capture the scene, both fail to just enjoy and soak in the pleasure of pure experience. And yet, in a rather contradictory way, writing does intensify an experience for the writer. He watches and observes his surroundings with far greater concentration as the writer’s mind automatically notes the colour of the seats of the train, the faces of those who share the same space with him, the scenery outside the window, the unusual tang of some herb in his steak as his mind seeks to describe it; committing them to memory for use later on. In doing this repeatedly, it then becomes a nature of habit to notice more than the mundane. Something as ordinary as a commute to work becomes a canvas for the writer as he imagines the stories (yes, here they creep up again) behind the bored faces of his fellow commuters. You could even daresay that the writer lives a in a richer world, because of his awareness of details, transforming the ordinariness of daily life to extraordinary, even if it’s only still in his head. TC mark

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