Sitting here, listening to “Day 6” of my 21-Day Guided Meditation program, I had an epiphany about why I write stories. While listening to this MP3, being coaxed to mediate on and repeat aloud the mantra, “I radiate love…I radiate healing light…” I realized at 4:44 am this morning that I am a writer because it allows me to feel the most complete sense of being “one” with the Universe that I could ever imagine; it allows me to radiate love and healing light.
Early on, when my mother read to me as a toddler from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, my mind was expanded by this children’s classic that tells the story of Horton the Elephant and his adventures saving Whoville, a tiny planet located on a speck of dust, from the animals who mock him. In this story, their world is shown to exist on a piece of dust, which sits on a dandelion, being held by someone whose entire world exists on a speck of dust. Amazing! To see the huge world outside us as being part of a universe which is infinitely smaller and smaller, where tiny worlds exist within our midst, so small we are unaware of them. To a two-year-old, this concept opened an inexhaustible possibility of magic and wonderment.
Then I discovered Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine,” and Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick’s film version and published after the release of the film. The story is based in part on various short stories by Clarke, which haunted me as a child, and I credit my love of this film at a young age with influencing me to become a screenwriter as an adult.
I am most profoundly influenced by the screenwriting of Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and of course Nora Ephron to throw old-fashioned romantic comedies into the mix of heady dramas and exuberant space operas which have colored my appreciation of film and screenwriting as artforms. Discovering the economy of phrasing necessary for a screenwriter to tell a story in 110 pages or less, is akin to my discovering the poetry of Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath, whose imagery is heightened and honed to perfection while conveying such incredibly vivid stories told with as few words as possible.
But writing short stories is where I feel most connected to the heart of the Universe. Because of the speed with which a short story can be written and the boundless freedom to portray my characters and their stories within any framework my mind can conceive of, penning short fiction fulfills me as a writer more so than any other form of storytelling. I can wake up from a dream in the middle of the night, fire up my laptop then within a couple of hours, have completed a rough draft of this story based on my dream, all before it’s time to shower and get ready for work. I love this! Creating art, even though I’m forced to work a day job to support myself, allows me to feel alive as an artist…radiating love into the universe, simply by doing what I love best: writing down stories and sharing them with others. And concurrently reading the short stories of others whose tales about life, love, and the human condition elevate my own world, and my own writing just by reading them and appreciating their unique and individual beauty and artistry.
For example, reading the short stories of Melissa Bank, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Tobias Wolff, and Jean Rhys has filled me with a lifetime of delight, while also allowing me to learn from them, and improve my own storytelling techniques. Reading and writing are the most profound expressions of joy and fulfillment I’ve ever known in a sustained and ever-evolving sense of the word “fulfillment.” Because writing is a solitary activity, for the most part, I find it allows me to connect to humanity around me, both by creating characters who overcome obstacles and learn life lessons, and by sharing these stories and ideas with others. This affords me an interaction and co-authorship with the Universe around me, which inspires and guides me to create stories anew, every day— radiating love and an ever-expanding life force of vitality and light. In short, writing stories is my raison d’etre.