Reach Out and Touch Someone – But Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Sometimes, if we are lucky, the work of a writer – a storyteller – touches us, and I don’t mean like that creepy guy at the bus stop who smells like liquor at 8 o’clock in the morning.

If we, the reader, are very fortunate, the meaning of a piece of writing will break through the haze of complications and worry that surrounds our inner minds – the part that really feels – and give it a little tap. Whether it is a fictional story, a real life anecdote, or maybe some observations on the human condition, that moment of feeling – an all too brief connection between writer and reader – is very important and needs to be pursued.

The majority of popular culture, it seems to me, is afraid to make that connection or to to be touched too deeply – kind of like a nun with a rape whistle. Anything that gives us an emotional reaction or, God forbid, makes us think, cannot possibly be a good thing, and should be avoided at all costs.

This is why, I believe, Reality Television is so popular. It is a group of characters behaving badly, with no discernable arc or personal journey who are well beyond any hope of growth or redemption. The programs are a flat line of conflict without story, and are, really, just a collection of idiots making a lot of noise while they give humanity a bad name. It does not ask the audience to feel anything (except maybe shame at being caught watching) and so is an easy, mind numbing experience that costs us nothing.

If we really get emotionally involved in something, whether it is a cause, a friend, or a story, there is a price we have to pay. We are called upon to examine the way we feel about something. We are called upon to learn a little bit about ourselves. We are called upon, perhaps, to change the way we see things if the lesson we learned strikes deep enough.

Most of the time people don’t want to feel, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to change. They want to soak in the ridulousness of horrible people doing horrible things so they can ignore their lives just a little bit more, for a little bit longer.

This I cannot abide, and if you’ve been reading this blog, or anything else I’ve ever written, I’m guessing you can’t abide it either.

I think the world needs more stories. It needs more heroes, worse villains, and greater journeys. The world needs storytellers, not to preach to us about the way things should be, but to move us to open our minds a little so we can figure out how things are, and how we ought to make them.

I am not guiltless, and have my little addictions to silly shit, just like everyone else. But the next time you sit down to watch another episode of drunken idiots saying rude things to each other, ask yourself if you’re learning anything, if you’re feeling anything. When you have an answer, think about the truth of it, and what it means.

In my writing life, I have had plenty of opportunity for discouragement. But everytime I read something that touches me, that really affects me, I am inspired. When I hear from someone that they liked one of my stories, that it really spoke to them, that maybe it made them feel something, then I am once more filled with an enthusiasm for the words.

If you are a writer, keep writing. Those words you’re getting down are valuable, and they are needed.

In the words of Robert J Sawyer at the last Surrey Writer’s Conference: “Your story won’t matter to everyone, but it will matter, very much, to someone.”

Thanks for reading.




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7 responses to “Reach Out and Touch Someone – But Keep Your Hands to Yourself

  1. Incredible post! I loved it! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for #blogboost and it’s magic of bringing me to your site. Here is my tentative attempt to say thanks to you for reaching out to touch others and encourage writers. I find these daily posts a challenge for me, however without some effort pushing against a challenge there will never be any positive change. I am still amazed how some people find things in a piece of written work that the author never intended to put there of even knew was there. It almost seems like they are being misquoted or misinterpreted. However, for the reader, it does not matter what the authors purpose was at the time of reading, as long as the “Ahh Haa” moment inspires the reader to be more aware or more creative,

  3. Your blog reminds me of one of the quotes from one of my favorite movies, “Storm of the Century.” It’s not completely apt, but there is a connection.

    “By and large Constable, the good is an illusion. Little fables that folks tell themselves so they can get through their days without screaming too much.”

    Again, not completely apt, but there was something you wrote that reminded me of it.

  4. You posts are always so well thought out and written, and they always make me think and reevaluate myself and my writing. Thank you.

  5. As the great Pete Seeger said, “I want songs on people’s lips, not in their ears”. The great Tyner Gillies echoes this sentiment–stories need to be in people’s minds and hearts, on paper, or told aloud. Sharing them is the key, just like the songs. Words are marvellous entities, able to elevate and devastate, with the gamut between of human emotions. Instead of reducing communications to 144 characters, we should be using more words! I am guilty of phoning rather than writing; I am guilty of indulging in one of those awful reality shows once yearly; I never diarize or blog despite many requests so to do. Why? Essentially, I suppose, laziness. Too, that “price we have to pay” is one which must be considered. How much energy is there to spare…enough for a small step, or enough for the major leap which might result in so much more? You’re on the money, Tyner…personal communication and story-telling are falling into disuse, marking a truly great divergence in our use of language. Technology, we…disparage you? worship at your feet? I have a hard time deciding.

  6. Kathleen

    In a way, you are touching (no pun intended) on a deeper issue about our present day methods of communication to one another. We compete to be heard, yet so few of us stop to listen as often as we should. The only price to pay to listen is time, and it is finite, or at least at this point in my journey, it is rapidly getting into shorter supply! Everytime we meet someone be it on the internet or on the street, they have a story to tell us, sometimes it isn’t the pretty tale we want to hear, but that is where a good writer comes in. You can take that nugget, that chance meeting, that circumstance and hammer out a literary jewel. The price has been your time on all accounts. So many people rush past good stories on their way to this and that.

    I watch tv, probably too much. Some reality tv does make me think. It makes me think, “What the hell were they thinking”? Some shows like Sister Wives and Little People generate a lot of interesting discussion of our societies tolerance or not for deviation of the norm.

    I read fiction to escape the day to day of my own human condition, to stimulate my mind, to be entertained, taken to new worlds and meet well written characters. I read blogs to learn what others are thinking. Keep hitting the keys on the keyboard Tyner!

  7. Really nice post. I am a television junkie, and whenever someone asks what I like about a particular show, the answer always begins with something about the story– characters and their journey, intelligent dialogue–whatever it is that keeps the story moving along. Consequently, I cannot abide reality television. My standard reply is, “I like my television scripted–and admittedly so.” So thanks for the shout-out to the importance of the story, whatever story gets to you.

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