Your Write to Live

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Everybody’s got a story to tell. Whether you’re recounting your real life experiences or engaging your imagination as you day dream about fictional characters, we all connect through stories. Storytelling has been around long before the written word and has been a vehicle to illustrate life lessons.

Back in the Hunter Gatherer days, a hunter may have recounted his run in with a deadly boar and lost a limb, so he would gather everyone around the camp fire and tell his story to make a point: “don’t mess with the boar or you get the horns. Now let’s make long pointy things to stab them with so we don’t have to fight bare handed.”

Yes, that’s a true story. To some degree.

Now I’m pretty sure they didn’t talk like that back in the day, but the lesson and experience is universal: mistakes were made and a committment to improvement was made to mitigate any future problems. That’s all stories really do in the end. They reveal human folly, illustrating just how flawed and fallible we are, but also celebrate our capacity to correct course.

Think of your favourite stories. What do they all have in common?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, they all feature a variety of fuck ups made by the main characters, and you got worried about them. You wanted them to achieve their goals, but something got in the way. You related to how they felt when they didn’t get what they want, thus invoking a sense of panic in you to the point where you couldn’t help but turn the page or watch the next episode to find out if they could escape a dreadful situation and come out on top.

Now think even deeper, further beyond the surface situation your favourite characters were confronted with. Think about what their goal was and what it meant to them, what it meant to those around them in their immediate world, and to the entire world at large. Was there a higher purpose to strive for? A moral principle to be uncovered? Some hidden nugget of human knowledge, new or old, that would benefit the growth humanity?


If that sounds too abstract let me give a few brief examples of how there’s so much more beneath the surface when it comes to popular stories:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is fundamentally about grieving the death of a child, as the story goes, but also serves as an allegory for Alice’s survival as a rape victim herself. She may have survived physically, but mentally, a part of herself died and was reborn into Susie Salmon, the novel’s main character.

Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs is fundamentally about human adaptability. How we are much weaker we are compared to other species, but it’s our wit and human invention that allows us to conquer even the most dangerous of beasts and environments.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is fundamentally about self-ownership and personal choice when it comes to suicide. It may have the basic components of a romance novel; boy meets girl, boy can’t stand girl, but will later need girl. But at it’s core, it’s about the difficulties of living with a disability and the moral complications of suicide.


Now before I go on a long winded bender pointing out the deeper meanings of stories and shamelessly advertising my old BSBS Reviews (for those of you who clicked the links per title), here’s the bottom line:

Storytelling is fundamental to the human experience.

The human experience is fundamental to storytelling.

Writing and telling stories is how we validate our experiences in stylized fashion, emphasizing certain details to illustrate a point and engage each other. Stories invoke empathy, inspire action, and challenge our preconceptions of the world.

Consuming a story is basically putting yourself in a state of voluntary vulnerability in order to experience somebody else’s point of view and learn from their trials and tribulations so you can further improve the use of your own thoughts, words, and actions.

And then on the flipside you can tell your story to provide that experience for others.

It’s Our Write to Live.

Blooper Reels and Humility

woopsI don’t know about you, but I personally love watching blooper reels from TV shows and movies. It’s nice to see the imperfections in performances before the piece gets polished up into consumable perfection. But while it is enjoyable to watch highly skilled and highly paid actors mess up their lines, break character, and fumble over their words, it is often hard to look at our own mistakes with the same amusement.

Why is that? I think I’m starting figure out what it is about blooper reels that make them so appealing, and before I shed my thoughts on that that, allow me to share the process that sparked my revelation.

Today, I am trying to edit my BSBS Review for The Girl on the Train and the whole recording process took about an hour and a half to do last night. This includes me gaining momentum in delivering my point, only to lose steam, delete the recording, and start all over again. The more I record, the more I have to edit, and I often fear that process.

It’s the same almost every time; I feel like I need to get it right the first time or I shouldn’t keep the recording. Then I eventually  tell myself that this is what I have editing software for! To cut through the awkward pauses between my points and compress them together in a deliverable format. Even then, it’s a battle between getting it perfect and getting it done.

When it comes time to editing, that’s where the real fun begins. That’s where I can create the illusion that I am a coherent speaker who can stay on point and deliver my message clearly and concisely–when in reality, everything that happened in between some of the cuts is anything but concise, clear, or coherent.

The more mistakes there are, the more shame I feel about it. I have all these thoughts and opinions about a story locked up in my head, all begging to be expressed or it’s going to bug me for not being able to share it. Having difficulty in conveying my thoughts adds to the pressure of wondering if it’s even worth doing these reviews considering that my videos have had hit or miss engagement in terms of viewership, comments, and likes.

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Did I Really Just Say That?!

After an hour or two of editing the initial recording and cringing at my mistakes, I eventually start laughing at myself for not only the bloopers, but also laughing at how stressed out I get from them. I know it’s horrible, but I often compare my moments of impeded speech to the way that Jimmy Valmer kid from South Park stutters when he speaks. Sometimes to the point of taking a whole minute to say a simple five word sentence. And Jimmy has it worse!

When I’m finally done experiencing all this creative mania, I relax and decide to just get the job done.

It’s not about the viewership, the likes, or even the comments–though of course, these are things I would greatly appreciate. It’s more about me having fun with reading these books and giving myself the treat of watching it all play out on the big screen. Not to mention  the chance to goof off on camera and deliver my thoughts in a place that doesn’t remain stuck in my head are huge pluses.

Sometimes…

  • The first recording gets edited to completion and uploaded anyway. I realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
  • The first recording gets edited to completion, but it still sucks despite my attempts at polishing it up. I see it as a rough draft/rehearsal to show me where I can improve in the re-recording.
  • Right away, I see how horrible it’s going to be. At least I don’t have to fear messing up THAT badly again, and I can jump back into the studio with much more confidence! I know I can do better, so I’ll do better.

Cut! Action! Print!

movie-production-clapper-board_249x201I’ve been doing BSBS Reviews for 9 months now and this is how it’s been for me. Today, I resolve to accept it as all part of the process. As much as I would like to get it all right the first time, it is incredibly rare for me to record a 15 minute video with not much editing required vs the usual 30-60+ messy minute mania.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to deliver my point without any editing and master this lip flapping, tongue slapping, noise making device installed in my face. Until then, I’ll keep practising and polishing up my craft.  I will accept that this may be my process for now or forever.

This is what made me realize why blooper reels are so fun to watch. There’s humility in showcasing some of the mistakes actors have made before post-production. It’s to show that they’re human too and just trying to find their way through the scene.

After all the missed cue lines and involuntary laughter, they eventually get it done. And more importantly, even though there is work to be done, the production can still have fun in the process. It’s nice to hear laughter erupting in the background from the people who are off screen, along with the ones on screen, because that signals to us that it’s okay to make mistakes and try again.

We just have to keep working at it until we get it right. If we care enough about what we want to create in our lives, we push through all the difficulty and learn from our mistakes. After all, every expert out there was once an awkward novice. No one is born skilled. Talented maybe, but I agree with Will Smith when he says talents are useless until you practise to turn them into skills.

The final product may be close to perfect, but the process doesn’t have to be. Creation is usually a messy experience, but that’s where the fun is at!