Showing vs Telling, round (insert relevant number here)

Got another article for you today – a lot shorter than the last one, but no less interesting for it. I have published my opinion on the whole “show don’t tell” thing before, but it’s nice to have some backup.

The point about showing being something that works far better in a visual medium, like film, than in written media is a really good one. It articulates that feeling you get when you watch the adaptation of a book, something happens that also happened in the book but it just doesn’t work, and you think something along the lines of: “This worked a lot better in the book”, or “this didn’t translate well on screen”. It’s because we all get into a certain frame of mind when we’re reading something; we’re a lot more willing to let certain things work, certain ideas and events seem much more appropriate in writing than they do in action. And it comes down, I think, to the specificity of the medium. If you’re telling a story only with words, then not just words but language – the very common meaning of the word, not like “cinematic language”, I’m talking spoken and written dialect here – is all you have to rely on, and so the more literate you are – again, the common meaning of the word – as a writer, the more effective your storytelling will be, because you are taking advantage of the medium instead of trying to apply a blanket stylistic approach that really only works for specific media. Showing is great when you’re working with film or comics, because it is literally showing the reader something. Showing in writing is impossible, because all you’re showing them is words. And there’s a reason the term is not “showing” a story. We tell stories. And that’s why telling works in writing in a way that it doesn’t and can’t work with other media, and why it is absolutely okay to do.

Just … y’know. Do it well. As with anything.

Speaking of telling: I can tell you all that I was about to throw in the towel with my incredibly iterative and generic werewolf impulse-writing project until I re-discovered Irish werewolves and the fact that the Morrigan could turn into a wolf and, just like that, came up with the idea for a sequel. Which means, of course, that I have to write this damn thing to completion in order to justify said sequel. I guess I could just write the sequel instead because honestly it’s a cooler idea than the one I’ve got going on right this minute but, at the same time, if it feels good to write and complete a whole novel draft in, say, two months, how awesome would it feel to then write the sequel two months later? So I dunno, it’s a dilemma.

Also there’s been a bunch of information I have been recently made privy to about our household finances, and I have absolutely no idea what the most responsible choice for me to make is regarding what happens after this semester. How can I get money? Is it better for me to keep studying or to go off and get a real job? What can I do to transform myself into one of those people who is always constantly “on” and can fit in all sorts of shit into their lives with perfect organisation or failing that perfect improvisation because they know exactly what the fuck they’re doing and what they want to be doing? How can I just be, like, literally perfect in every way?

Well, just this second the YouTube video I have playing in the background gave me some life advice: hard work is not necessarily a gauge of success; it’s knowing exactly what makes you happy. Well, we can’t all do what makes us happy, but point taken. And I think a lot of my anxiety about what I’m supposed to be doing – including what I’m supposed to be writing – comes from the fact that I am having real trouble holding onto what I enjoy doing, and that if I try to think my way back into that feeling I come up with all sorts of excuses to not do it, like “well that doesn’t make any money” or “I’m too lazy/lacking in self-esteem to actually find the motivation to do it properly“, etc.

I’m telling you all this because I hope that, through the telling, I will find the solution, or clear away enough garbage that I can at least have enough mental space to start finding it. For those of you who remember me waxing lyrical about Not Being A Writer Anymore at the start of the year, and all the little epiphanies that followed after it, six months later I’m just feeling predictably stuck, burnt-out and uninspired. More than that, I feel kinda hopeless. Weak. Aimless.

Maybe I need this stupid werewolf thing more than I thought.

That whole thing about writing being a way to flip the bird to your censors … I have so many censors. I made most of the ones I listen to the most these days. I have so many justifications for silencing myself; and they’re good justifications. I agree with them. But I have bias; I make these justifications inside my own head, without outside perspective. I think if I had that outside perspective, I’d think differently. I don’t think dipping back into Tumblr every now and then (read: every day) is helping very much. And it’s not like I disagree with the reasons being given for not saying certain things on Tumblr. It’s that the message I end up taking away is just a blanket statement of “shut up”, regardless of the specifics.

I can’t have both. I can’t tell stories and shut up.

And I have to tell stories.

Ugh.

I’ve talked about this before, too. I’ve talked about all of this before. I want something to be different this time. But maybe things have to be the same first. I am sick of going around in circles, and I know that it’s because I don’t try new solutions. So I need to do that.

God I am in a rut.

I’m telling you this so that maybe I’ll work out how to get myself out. And I think, really, that’s why we tell stories to begin with: to rid ourselves of the murky darkness that clings to us and stops us from seeing ourselves clearly. Or healthily at least.

And it does work. I hope it works this time, too.

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