You are standing in a grocery store. You are sifting through several brands of butter, comparing prices and nutrition and weighing the pros and cons. And, while so entirely wrapped up in the mundane, you fail to notice the shadow creeping up on you. It gets closer and closer and closer and closer, and yet, you still stand there balancing your butter bins back and forth like you're a god of judgment.
And then it strikes you.
The butter ceases to exist. It vanishes like smoke in the night, drifting off into an unseen world that you now lack the ability to perceive. In its place is a pathway to infinity, a trillion trillion roads. Each seems to contain its own absolute journey. And yet, you can just connect the dots, just see where each crosses and twists and combines to form yet more and less roads simultaneously. You stand within a dark chasm lined by these pathways, each lit by a million million bright florescent bulbs that are nearly blinding you. They flood your brain with more signals than it can handle. You start to panic even while your mind is singing a joyous praise because this light is everywhere and everything.
And then the butter is back.
You stare, dumbfounded, at it for several seconds, trying to figure out what just happened. In a haze, you wander to the register, pay for your groceries (having forgotten the butter entirely), drive home, put your produce in its proper place, and sit down on your old worn couch.
And you stare.
And you stare.
And you stare.
And then you realize.
You just created a story.
Okay, so that may be taking it a bit overboard, but you get where I'm coming from, yes?
A fictional story is something that can emerge at any place, at any time, from any errant thought. It can be the result of days of intense contemplation or a random tangent created whilst staring at a bin of butter. The all-encompassing yet ambiguous origins of fiction are part of what make it so interesting to both read and write.
In essence, the origins of a story are like those of dreams. They are not entirely known even when analyzed down to the finest grain. They can be the result of a trillion different bits and pieces of feeling and thought tightly compressing and ever evolving.
And that's what makes them so amazing.
But it's also what makes them so difficult to express.
When the origins of a story come from more places than you yourself can even trace, how do you convey it to another? How to you pin down which parts are "important" and which are "not"? How do you pick out the "relevant elements" and the "irrelevant"?
To you, each piece is of equal importance in the beginning. It is only via prescribed literary analysis that you are able to break it into the "desirable pieces" that you need in order to craft a "well-revised novel."
But, even then, you are still left with the knowledge that there is more. There will always be more. There will always be the old pair of shoes in the corner you never talked about. The spider in the web on the ceiling of your main character's room. The stray quarter on the ground. There will always be the random business your protagonist bumped into while he was running off to save his love interest that was never even mentioned.
And when you think about it, those shoes had their own story, their own history. That spider had its own life. That quarter was passed through a million hands. That random business man had a wife and kids and was heading to the most important meeting of his life...
And at this point, it becomes kind of hard to deny the real essence of the story:
Each is a universe in and of itself. It has the potential to extend for an eternity, and it's only limitations are those of your mind. When you stop thinking, it stops growing. When you stop writing, the story stops being conveyed. But while, at one point, you must stop writing (if indeed you possess some common literary goal, and at a more basic level, if you must attend to other functions of life), you never have to stop thinking. It is a perpetual mode of creation that can last until your dying breath.
The writer, in essence, is the living god of his story-world. And that story world is the dark, ever-expanding universe that desires to be filled.
And where does this realization of writing fit in the real writing world, you ask?
Well, it's step number one, of course.
Welcome to writing.
This Time's On Writing Question:
Where and when did you get the idea for your most recent story?