Meditations on storytelling

15. 10. 2019


To me, writing a good story is not an easy task. My first drafts have the tendency to be cruelly disappointing. Endlessly rewriting my story seems to be the most reliable process to a successful story completion. What I have not learned yet: My story development process involves a lot of brain! But brain-heavy creative processes are not very effective in creating fresh plots. And so I keep searching for the creative process that has the potential to surprise me.

Currently I am writing short animated stories for children. My thoughts keep circling around questions like: Who is my character, really? How can I make him/her surprise me and the audience? - Coming back from my latest meditation retreat I realized: The method I follow at these retreats will help me to write better stories. After all, enlightenment is, in short, a direct experience of something or someone.

Tell me who you are

The contemplation practice I follow is called Enlightenment Intensive. Charles Berner started teaching and experimenting with this method in 1968. His goal: to find a more effective and quicker way to enlightenment. The core of this method is the dyad: Two people sit across from each other. Person A instructs person B “Tell me who you are!” Person B contemplates who he/she is at that very moment. Then he/she intends to directly experience his/her present state. At the same time, he/she remains open to whatever else might occur from this contemplation. What comes up, he/she communicates back to person A.

The element I want to stress here is “intending to directly experience something”. This process is exactly the opposite of intending to rationally explain something, such as my state of mind.

For example, I might connect with a very insecure inner-self, that confronts the other as my enemy. To really understand this state of mind, I aim my focus at becoming 100% this person (me!) who is in competition with everyone else. While keeping my focus undisturbed I try to stay open to whatever might come up. And suddenly an image/feeling/word might surface, such as: “Throw off the armor!” or “My mother is the other?” or “I am the other!” - These messages from within me reveal insights and reversals about my insecurity feeling. They are not yet an enlightenment, but they are revelations surfacing while I am trying hard to stop thinking.

Tell me who your character is

While on my way back after the last Enlightenment Intensive it just hit me: Trying to directly experience my character could reveal insights about the character I wouldn’t deduce easily from his or her character traits. Key to success is to stop thinking and wanting my characters act in any way I believe to be the right way. - In short, if their action would have a free will, it just comes to me on its own accord.

Will it work? Will my stories become better? I don’t know yet. But, I am thrilled to experience with my new insight into storytelling. One thing this method will deliver for sure: The characters will surprise me with their insights and action! - I'll keep you posted.