Every night I’m asked by my daughter to narrate a story . It cannot repeat, should have no traces of any other similar storyline. Unique, and every night. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but it sure has become addictive for her to be able to listen to a new tale as she dozes off. Not quite the easier part of the day for me. Late night calls from work (and other excuses) kept me out of this daily ritual from time to time. But most nights I’m confronted by this intellectual challenge; one I had under-estimated.
The easy and lazy options were over in quick time : crow tales, kings and battles, village situations, big ships and mountains and even dinosaurs. I remember once scratching my head midway into a narrative – when all I did was blabber – no logic, no twists, no ending in sight; the story never made any sense. She had slept by then. Waking up next day, she told me that was awful. I realized I had reached the low point.
To make things easy for me, she sometimes relents and says I could repeat myself – which makes it even more stressful. I wonder how artists feel when they struggle some days – and realize they cannot create anything fresh and inspiring.
I’m not an aspiring artist, but why is it so difficult to cook up a story? Perhaps it has to do with the effort and discipline in thinking at the end of a long day. Creativity is not easy. There is a whole body of knowledge on Story Telling which is leveraged in many domains like entertainment (of course!), marketing, education, politics, etc. You will find the many benefits, techniques and tools about Story Telling which is also an oft-repeated phrase at work these days. But for me, the overt focus on the preparation, structure and the outcome of a narration drains out the energy. How does one make it easier and smooth ?
Perhaps I’m unsettled at the larger question too: what should the story be about? What should she know about the world at her age. In fact, I worry about what she should (need) not know at this time of her life – what with the blitzkrieg of unfiltered content exposure, 24×7. Going beyond the simple, direct and consumable stuff – how do you slowly take her to the depth and meaning of things. You have to be cautious though, by being less preachy.
Until I figure that out, I have turned to another easy option: reality. I have begun taking trips to the memory lane, going to my childhood days, fishing out incidents that I still remember – to find something interesting and worthwhile to tell her. After all, where else does one get plots like these: how I cried at primary school once, not being able to remove the shoe laces – until when the girl next to me used her hair pin to untangle the mess. How I never figured out a way of dealing with bullies at school. Or how I let the guy next to me copy from my answer sheet in the (false, as it turned out) hope of him being friendly during the soccer play that evening. And how I stressed out on exam nights. Real examples of mishaps, missed opportunities, major failures and yes, the big points and successes.
It is working. She says she loves these more than fiction. She wouldn’t know (yet) that’s because I might not have stuck to the truth all the time.