The story before the story

I've been trying to accept that some of the stories I write - perhaps all of them, at this stage in my career - are the stories that must be told before I can tell other, better stories.

Stories are like relationships. You will inevitably experience some that are problematic when viewed in retrospect. They may be exhilarating at the time, or frustrating but worth it, or dreamy until that strange day you watch your partner eat an apple and realize something has gone terribly wrong with your life. [NOTE: any fruit, eaten problematically, will do.] 

Even a pretty messed-up relationship can teach us a lot about what we want and don't want in a partner. It can show us what we're willing to give up and what we will henceforth choose to preserve against any threats. It gives us the emotional intelligence to do better in the next relationship/story. And when another person or idea comes along, we're better equipped to do the work to make something beautiful.  

When you cringe at something you wrote a while ago, it's not unlike the cringes you experience when you think about the dumb shit you said and did earlier in your romantic history. [NOTE: when I say you, I mean me, with vague hopes that you are nodding. I don't think I'm alone in this.] Or when you're writing something and it feels like you're trying to construct a soaring cathedral while slopping around in a wet sandbox, maybe you're just telling the story before the real story, the better one still waiting for you.

I know it's frustrating and discouraging. [NOTE: I KNOW.]  And there's no guarantee that the next story is "the one." [NOTE: there is no "one." That is a terrible fiction that has made millions of people very sad. Love is work, just like writing.] But what are you going to do, quit? No, you're not. [NOTE: unless you are. It's not my place to judge you. But maybe you just need to take a break and have a stiff drink in the bath. Right?] Just tell the story, fall in love, stumble, recover, watch it eat the apple, sit it down, tell it you want to see other stories, and break up. It'll be fine. Give it freedom. Send it to a magazine. Who knows - maybe there are some readers out there who will love it more than you ever did.