To Write A Story


By Carissa Holzer & Photograph by Jessica Scott

To write a story you must, in the first place, have a story. 

You needn’t go looking for it necessarily, for every moment has a story and in time the right one will present itself. You shouldn’t expect it to be so bold as to grasp you in a chokehold, though sometimes it might. More than likely, it will lurk quietly in the back of your mind, sowing seeds of whispered inspiration until they sprout into creative beginnings. Delicate beginnings, but beginnings nonetheless. 

[the seeds roll across my open palm. such curious little things, the largeness of the possibility they hold masked by their small and inconspicuous frames. how easily they could be passed by, stepped on, hidden beneath larger and more promising options. yet here they lie in my hand. coincidence? perhaps. opportunity? the answer drops with the seeds to the moist soil below and is covered with ambitious handfuls of hope.] 

Once the story is in hand, you begin. 

Pen laid to paper, hands on the keyboard, paper stuffed into the typewriter... begin somewhere. And though the beginning, the middle, and the end may all be fuzzy or virtually non-existent, don’t be discouraged. With time, with patience, with diligence and a dose of humility, these will form and bloom as you surrender to the process and nourish the growth. 

[patience, time, and energy is the stuff all growth requires and runs so slowly on: a reminder that is a daily requirement as general tending becomes a thankless routine. I begin questioning why I’m bothering to attempt this when I can so easily enjoy the fruits of others instead. the ever present “why” invades heavily through all the watering, weeding, and watching. yet, always the answer is the same: because I can, because I will, because I must. an odd but compelling answer that burns deeply. so I press on until, finally, the seed pushes up through the obscured places and spreads delicate leaves to the light.] 

Don’t be afraid to be broken by it. 

Dead ends are inevitable, loss of words is real. But life is full of stories and without the pain and frustration in the documentation, the aspect of “realness” and tangibility is lost. For to truly feel the raindrops, truly see the tears, truly feel the joy at the deepest level, a sort of humble death must occur. A death of your own voice to the voice of the story unfolding. 

[the seedling is now a maturing tree, every day bringing tangible growth toward a fruitful finished product. I prune, feed, weed, train, and even scold like a lunatic, drunk with the consuming possibility of perfection. but in the midst of my obsessive attentions, a storm passes. one morning the tree is reaching, seemingly strong and healthy, toward all the possibilities it was planted beneath, the next it’s a splintered stump with unfounded branches scattered round. perfection was not to be. my pride is shattered and I consider surrendering to my defeat, walking away while I’m able. humility softens long-hardened corners as I wander, clinging to hope deep beyond reason. that same hope pushing me to visit my place of defeat before the long contemplated surrender... and notice the tender branches sprouting there.] 

And unfold it will. 

For there is living substance to all stories, the stuff life itself feeds on. It could take moments, hours, weeks, even years, but the story will methodically move through its seasons of evolvement and carry you with it. Don’t be tempted to prune it much on this side or that, or train it into a tamed frame - the unpredictability of its growth will be its charm as much as its challenge, so resign yourself to its fate and pay note. 

[branches furl messily around the broken bit of stump, pretty near hiding it under a billowing sea of leaves studded with blossoms. they’ve grown freely under more gentle guidance - even to pluck a few blossoms here and there for the sake of healthy and abundant fruit had been an overly thoughtful affair. though nothing like the stately and magnificent specimen I’d grown in my mind, the regrowth has posed a second chance and I’ve gratefully accepted it. to see the tree finally rooting down and stretching upward solidifies my wondering: possessiveness drains life where nurture is needed.] 

Then, it will end. 

Not much needs to be said on this account, for an ending is natural and so, though sometimes premature, it will follow its natural course to completion. And when it does, lay the pen or fingers or keys to rest and resist any urge to squeeze artificial breath from it. For in coming to the right place of ending, it will serve to be another beginning. 

[finally, the first fruits. they sway in hearty clusters amidst the shrouds of their leafy abodes, fully alive and blithely oblivious to both the bitter and sweet poured into and out from them. I gently pluck one to break open, examining its contents thoughtfully: complex textures of fleshy fruit studded with seeds. seeds, the place of beginning at the mark of an end. all along these inconspicuous little things were windows into something much larger than themselves, links in an ancient chain of unpredictable sagas. and now I was holding the next link. I smile at the blissful absurdity of it… then, carefully plucking them from their places, toss them expectantly to the wind.]