Saturday, June 16, 2012

Simply Saturday: Now Serving Meat and Potatoes of Life

The house where I grew up is a small three bedroom rambler style that was the uglies shade of 1970s orange I have ever laid eyes on in my entire life. Thankfully, someone has since had the good sense to change the color. The house is in a small town in the country, about ten miles as the crow flies from the shores of Lake Sakajwea.

In this little house lived myself, my siblings, our mother, and various pets over the years. Despite growing up poor as dirt, our mother provided us with everything we ever needed. When she would come home from work, she made dinner. It wasn't just any dinner. It was the meat and potatoes kind of dinner. We were not allowed to eat in the living room glued to the television. We ate together at the table. We discussed our day, picked at each other, laughed, and enjoyed the time we had together. There were a few times in which we told on each other for little acts of indiscretion, or in my case, told on myself for lack of forethought before I spoke. Never, ever tell of your greatest feat of the day at the swimming pool when you're supposed to be grounded. These things do not go over well with Mom. I couldn't help it, I jumped off the diving board for the first time that day. But, I digress...

In our little house we didn't have a VCR or an Atari game system. For the longest time we didn't even have a colored TV. It didn't matter to us, or for that matter to most of the kids who lived in the small town. We were all outside enjoying the meat and potatoes of life. We had too much to do to worry about whether or not we were missing something on the magic box in the living room. The TV was more of an entertainment piece for grown-ups. Prime time television? We didn't know what that was. We were out playing hide and seek in the dark, or other games. We built snow forts in the winter and tree forts in the summer. Kick the can was an awesome variation on the traditional hide and seek game. We had snowmobiles and horses to ride. There were frogs, turtles, and even snakes that needed catching. We had no time for sitting idly on the couch stuffing our faces with the deliciousness of chips, candy, and other munchies. We were living life.

As a person who endeavors to write, the importance of these past experiences plays a significant role in the process. The saying goes, write what you know. How can an author know anything if they haven't experienced the meat and potatoes of life? I wonder sometimes about the quality of writing. I wonder if the experience of sitting on the couch watching television or playing video games will effect future stories. Will it effect the stories that my grandchildren will read? I wonder if this is where telling and showing becomes difficult.

I have recently read a blog about the show don't tell technique. Although showing is important, telling has it's place in writing also. I think what matters is how we tell. What are we showing when we are telling? Look at all the greatest storytellers of all time. They showed more than they told through their animations, voice inflections, and descriptive wording. Thoreau is a prime example of the showing through telling. When you read his stories of his experiences, he is telling it, yet showing the reader the beauty that surrounded him. He is telling of the deepest thoughts and emotions that lived within him. He was serving up the meat and potatoes of life; as he experienced it.

Is the mantra of show don't tell really that important authors should be ostracized from the writing world, simply because they choose to be different?