All the stories you shouldn’t write – Katherine Center

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By Katherine Center

The world is full of infinite stories, and you could write them all. But you won’t. There isn’t enough time in the day, for starters. Or in a year. Or in a lifetime. You have to choose your stories very carefully — and that’s exactly how it should be.♥

Writing is always about choosing. That might be one of the most essential qualities of writing, in fact. Whether you’re journaling, or writing a story, or even making a poem out of those little refrigerator magnets — what you write, and how it turns out, and what it comes to mean depends as much on what you don’t choose as what you do.

The room you’re sitting in right now, for example, is its own little microcosm of details. If you described them all, you could go on for pages and pages.

But nobody would read them.

The act of writing is an act of selection. Of all the details you could call attention to, you pick just a few. The best ones. The most resonant ones. The ones that hold the most meaning and power. You choose those details — the gauze curtain with the sunlight coming through, the red shoe half hidden under the bed, the wilted flower on the windowsill — and you let them do the work of all the others you left out.

That’s part of why the act of writing is so powerful — and why the act of reading is so meaningful.

Writing takes the vastness and chaos of the world and distills it down into something that fits on a page. More than that, it orders that chaos into neat lines of words bound by grammar and structure—paths we can follow, step-by-step, and understand.

Writing makes things make sense.

The act of writing forces you to decide what matters.

And the same is true of stories. You will not write infinitely more stories than you will write. That’s just the bittersweet way of things.

And so be careful. Choose wisely. Hold out for the right story.

What I mean is, write the story that you, yourself, want to read. Choose a story that you are desperately curious about, that hooks you right away and won’t let you go, that speaks to something deep and essential in your psyche.

Honor your own inner reader, and give her what she’s been longing for.

Maybe other people’s inner readers have been longing for the same thing.

Or maybe not.

But if you want to spend your life writing stories that matter, it’s the only choice you have. Because that really is the only authentic compass you can follow as a writer: Your own.

Katherine Center is the author of the upcoming novel, How to Walk Away. She writes bittersweet comic stories about how we fall down — and how we get back up. Katherine’s books and essays have appeared in InStyle, Redbook, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, and others, as well as several anthologies. Katherine lives in her hometown in Texas with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog.

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