Tell Me A Story

After 8 days of writing every day, I encountered my first day of writer’s block. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write, it was that words would not even bother to show up in my mind long enough to make it on the page.

Thankfully I know the magic cure for writer’s block: read something. Once I have soaked in a bath of someone else’s poetry, absorbing their eloquence and breathing in the steam of sophisticated prose, it is easy to write again.

This is why today’s favorite thing is not just reading, but a good story.

The book I chose as today’s medicine was actually the Nobel Lecture by Mario Vargas Llosa In Praise of Reading and Fiction, which my wonderful brother mailed to me a few months ago in a surprise care package.
Care Package

Favorite brother award goes to my (only) brother John. And another favorite thing: care packages filled with goodies like this one.

I have already read this book, but I return to it frequently as a reminder of why I read and why I write. Usually this is necessary after I’ve binged on Netflix for too long and forgotten how glorious book pages are.

In the lecture Llosa says, ““We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life.

Writer’s block certainly counts as an insufficiency of life. Beyond that, reading will also cure loneliness and heartache, complacency and boredom. Reading urges us to be better humans, to reach the full potential of our imaginative neurons and compassionate hearts. All of this is achieved through story.

People have feared the disappearance of paper books ever since the first e-readers hit the market, but people also worry that television and digital content in general will make novels and voluntary reading obsolete.

Such concerns are silly when you consider that human beings are wired to love a good story. Marketing professionals know this, pastors know this, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, inventors, producers, and businesses know this. It is almost impossible to motivate someone to change or adopt your way of thinking without giving them a powerful reason through relatable narrative.

Stories can protest the insufficiencies of life because they fill in the gaps and the questions, even if that is done through more questions. Stories give us permission to ask more of our situations, demanding explanation or purpose. Stories also provide us with the comfort of not knowing, consolation in the face of loss, and room to grieve or wonder.

Stories are one of my favorite things because they give unconditionally, teaching me to simply listen, to be open to the world around me. Even a bad story can be humor in itself. Stories are also a way for me to give back to others, the way we can serve others with the gift of a good story.

Another book I recently reread is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The ending is marvelous, and it speaks to the power of this gift when it says “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words.”

There is great power both in the giving and receiving of stories. They preserve our history and inspire our future. They renew us when life is insufficient and we can’t find our own words to say it.

As Llosa says in the Nobel lecture, “living is worth the effort if only because without life we could not read or imagine stories.”

Pay attention to the stories around you, they can bring any day back from the brink and leave you with something to give out in return.

How have stories affected your life?


Where You Lead

This upcoming Saturday I will be going to one of my favorite places on earth. I will tell you all about it on Saturday, but until then I thought I would lead up to it by making every post until then about one of my favorite things.

Today’s favorite thing: Gilmore Girls.

I know this is a stereotype for many girls, and I usually avoid trends, but there is a reason people love this show. Besides the witty writing,  brilliant pop culture references, and natural humor from the small-town setting—Gilmore Girls fulfilled the ideal potential of a television show to be relatable, instructional, and a relief from the world.

We Can All Be Either Rory or Lorelai

Television is essentially writing with a video element. You have fiction, nonfiction, and every genre in between. The best writing contains characters that are relatable in one aspect or another. Those characters also have to experience narratives that are universal to most people.

Both Rory and Lorelai represent a number of personality traits that everyone can relate to. For some it is Rory’s innocence and idealism, and the narrative of her losing those things to regain them in a new way. For others it is Lorelai’s stubbornness and dramatic flair, which highlight her pursuit of independence and the realization of her need for those around her.

Th magic power of fiction is watching someone else respond just like you have or would, and then knowing that you need to learn the same lessons. You walk away baffled and encouraged, because if Rory can go back to Yale after dropping out and Lorelai can learn to forgive Luke, you can be just as courageous and love just as deeply as they did.

And if you can’t be one of those two, you can always relate to Luke:
“I have no patience for jam hands!”

It Provides Both Practical and Worthless Information

“If you’re going to throw your life away, he better have a motorcycle!” – Lorelai

“For every good woman, there’s a dirty little wolf ready to lead her astray” – Babette

“I’m attracted to pie, it doesn’t mean I feel the need to date pie.” – Lorelai (please someone incorporate this into the sermon about hunger and the body, see 1 Corinthians 12-13)

“The last supper cannot be funky!” – Taylor Doose
“The plural of coul-de-sac is couls-de-sac” – Rory

“The difference between cows and humans is hay.” – Kirk

“Only prositutes have two glasses of wine with lunch.” – Richard Gilmore
“If the entire population of China walked by, the line would never end because of the rate of population increase” – Lorelai

You can decide which is which.

You Can Always Escape to Stars Hollow and Ones You Love

Although too much television is definitely dangerous, occasionally you need to escape from the world around you. I’m not saying become a hermit and pretend these people are your real friends. But you can hide out there for awhile, and the best shows will remind you why you need to get back out there.

Perhaps you have a strained relationship with your parents—Lorelai can help you with that. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your life and want to run home instead of finishing your finals—Rory can help you with that. Or maybe it feels like everyone around you should be put in a mental institution—Luke can help you with that.

In the end, it is the people who will be there when you call their names, and who will follow where you lead, that are the most important. And if watching the show doesn’t remind you of that, at least getting the theme song stuck in your head will.

Note: the inspiration for this post came after a GLORIOUS reunion of the Gilmore Girls cast happened over the weekend. I mean just look at this photo of all of them!

Here are the best highlights:
  • Amy Sherman Palladino (the show’s creator), Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and Kelly Bishop all discussing the show for 45 minutes (Source:
  • Hepp Alien (Zach, Lane, and Brian’s band) performing the Gilmore Girls theme song live (Source: Buzzfeed)
  • Almost every actor (this was literally a giant reunion) saying where they think his/her character would be now (Source: Buzzfeed)
  • And most importantly, Jess, Logan, and Dean all agreed that Rory’s best boyfriend was Jess (Source: Huffington Post)

Do you have a favorite tv show?

Why is it your favorite?