These are the words embedded into the title section of Medium’s editing tool, words that have allowed countless writers and thinkers to share their ideias with the entire world. But, how often are these stories we here share truly our stories, and how often are our stories worth telling?
Consider this: how many people that you know closely are worth writing a book about? Are you worth writing a book about? A good one, I mean. Not many, I imagine. I have encountered this myself, particularly when looking at my own life and seeing that is mostly composed of a chain of unpredictable events and actions, lacking in deeper motivations, meaning and transcendent truths. I believe this observation holds true to most people. Rare, indeed, are those people about whom books are written about, without need for further fiction and magical realism that embellishes their journeys. They are who they are, and who they are is a lot more interesting than who I am.
Many will advise you that telling your story is about being sincere, and honest, and opening those secret doors inside your mind to release the full potential of whatever has happened to you. To an extent I have to agree; sincerity is important insofar as it helps you understand who you are, your motivations, what it is you seek in life and what makes you happier. As important as this process may be for you, that much is not necessarily true to your readers. Unless the deeper truth you found is an universal one, there is not much change to be achieved by putting it to paper, and even if there is, once it’s told telling it again is nothing but mere repetition.
What few people will admit is that you have to lie, cheat, invent and swindle your way into building stories and books. In short, by saying “tell your story…” what they mean is “just f’n say something”. Of course, this is not very inspirational. However, this is the true beauty of writing and of any creative enterprise. You get to weave together fantasies, thoughts and ideas into something that, without ever possibly knowing, resonates with many people in unspeakable ways. Ambiguity plays a major role here, and famous writers, film directors and screenwriters know this to be just as powerful as conveying an universal and deeper truth. It allows the reader or viewer to extract as much as he can, and to relate on a fundamental level as broadly as he can.
Friedrich Hayek, when deconstructing the role of the State in a society and the economy, comparing it to what the free market has to offer, concluded that one strong argument against central planning is that knowledge and ideas are spread out across the population, and no singular or collective entity could ever produce a result as efficient as everyone working together, but independently. Now, this is not a political, economic or philosophical article. It’s just one about writing and creativity. But, clearly, Hayek’s conclusions provide a lot more than arguments against Statist intervention. They shed light on the fundamental reason why telling the truth is not enough and often undesirable in writing; ideas and knowledge are spread out across society, and alone, yet together, we are capable of conjuring enough ideas and narratives to tell all the stories that need to be told. We just need to make them up, suture everything with enough ambiguity, and throw them into the world.
Telling your story doesn’t cut it.