This was one of those keynotes I was so glad I had a keyboard for. And it was one of those keynotes that while I was listening I could hardly believe I was participant to such scintillating words. I won’t do it justice, but I’ll do my best to share. Hopefully the force will be felt strongly in this one. 😉
We seek the answers to who are we, where are we going, what are we doing, in stories. We are always seeking some kind of truth. We want to know who we are and understand. And we create stories to do this. One of our earliest stories is the Epic of Gilgamesh. What was Gilgamesh’s dilemma? He, too, was seeking these truths.
Story’s have magic. They have power. We desire them because in us is this voice saying: I have to find out who I am and where I’m going.
The next great stories are the Greeks. There was Arachne who boasted her spinning was better than the gods, and she got turned into a spider, that’s why spiders are called arachnids. If you think of the stories as an attempt to understand our emotions, passions, drives, fears and what goes wrong when we let any of them have complete dominion. It’s a strive to understand who we are. To understand what is wisdom and what is foolishness.
Philosophy is the struggle for wisdom. It is looking to more deeply understand ourselves.
A good story is the finest way to motivate people. Most of you are familiar with the phrase: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves… It’s the Good Samaritan story. Don’t we all wish, after that, to be the one who stops and helps. We only need to see the word Samaritan now. That’s the power in story.
Stories can move us to all sorts of wonderful things. Dante is one of my favorite authors. The whole message of Inferno, is you are not punished for your sins, you are punished by them. Every time we didn’t do the best we could have, we hurt ourselves the most.
When you are less than you could have been, you have made yourself less.
Let’s go to Shakespeare next.
The way he put things…we still like to refer to. Great writing is relatively simple. Never use the Latin word if the Anglo-saxon one will do. The basic language holds all the words we need for the things we need. There’s room for complicated words, but too often we use them to impress rather than communicate.
If I say I have indigestion, you want to say, get a grip go get some pepto. But if I say, I hurt, you’ve got it, don’t you?
Good writing is simple, passionate, powerful—it doesn’t repeat itself although there can be occasional echoes of an idea. We can write well if we want to. Put your heart on the page. Then go back and rewrite and take out everything that’s unnecessary, everything that doesn’t convey what you actually feel. You’ll know when they’re contrived.
Repetition tends to weaken what we’re trying to say. I believe what we’re here to do is to learn to empathize with other people. It is up to us to try to empathize with as many people as possible.
If you read well, you can taste a little bit of all sorts of other lives. It is so important to read as much as you can.
Your life will be different than anyone else’s. You have got something unique and powerful to say about it.
You can write words that will reach across time and space to all people to the present and the future. Maybe something you write will reach somebody who’s alone and frightened and you can be a companion to them in that moment. Your words helps them to know that the darkness will pass.
Do you have something other people can be enriched by? It’s difficult to write, but it’s worth it. You’ll have to polish your words so that in the end it carries the passion. We can write good letters, but a good book or a short story is far more—it’s your letter to mankind.
Most of us have something that to us is particularly beautiful. Mine is light on water. The things we love, that we share with others, they may suddenly see in a better way.
If you are one of those who has lived a life where nothing’s ever gone wrong for you, hang on, it will.
Put down your heart on the page. Read other authors because their words will inspire. Sometimes you’ll see what to do and sometimes you’ll see what not to do. The beautiful things that other people have seen and felt, down the centuries, can enrich you. And you can write something that will enrich other people anywhere, now or in the future.
What lies in your heart is precious. You have gone through experiences to enrich it. Whatever it is to you that is priceless, don’t be ashamed to say that something hurt to experience. Don’t forget who would like for you to fail.
Where would we be without the written word? Do we treasure those things? If you can enrich it and pass it on, whatever it is, put it down with your heart.
Everything that you have experienced, write it the very best you can, and share it with everyone you can. They may find at 3 in the morning you were the companion they were aching to hear from.
Again, I’m not sure if I did it the justice it deserves, but hopefully you gained something wonderful from it. I certainly did. I have to admit, I haven’t read her books yet, but wow, is she a phenomenal public speaker!