Tell Me Why

Why do we tell some stories over others?

Tell Me Why
Photo by Immo Wegmann / Unsplash

The city cut down a tree in front of our neighbor’s house today.

I’m not sure why the tree was cut down. Perhaps it was sick? All I know is a team with big machines and trucks spent the better part of the morning cutting down the giant tree.

Now it’s just a stump, which I guess a different team comes and removes? Again, I have no idea how any of this works. But this stump got me thinking about the whybehind some of the stories I tell.

My hope is people who read my work are left with something.

I hope people are challenged to think or act based on what they’ve read. I don’t want my readers (that’s you, by the way) walking away asking, “why was that written?”

Ok, a moment of confession, the now-dead (previously dead?) tree down the street didn’t trigger this question. I’ve been pondering why for a few days. It even popped up in a conversation recorded for a future episode of my podcast, This Week In Writing.

Simon Sinek, in one of the best TED Talks¹, says start with why.

I remember an author saying when they tell a story, they always ask why. Why is this moment in the character’s life worth telling? I’m not sure where or when or who I heard this from, otherwise I’d cite the source. But the question is valid; if we have a story to tell, there should be a reason we share it.

As I stretch my muscles in the blognasium, many anecdotes from the past are randomly popping into my brain. They’re all great stories, but I keep running into why they should be told.

Again, I want to challenge you to think or act, so is telling a story for the story’s sake enough? I’m honestly trying to figure this out.

Perhaps the act of creating is enough of a why. I wonder if Picasso fretted over why he painted a whole bunch of blue things. Maybe he did, and that’s why he stopped? I don’t know. This might be a bad analogy, but I’m sticking with it.

Writing, telling stories, getting the words out of my head might be reason enough to tell them. Maybe I’m over-thinking all of this. Ok, I’m probably over-thinking all of this. Telling a story elicits feelings in the reader. If you are challenged by the piece, then great, I’ve done what I set out to do. If not, then hopefully you received a moment of respite from the otherwise chaotic world.

Providing peace in chaos is a pretty solid why.


1: The TED Talk is also one of the poorest quality recordings you’ll find in their catalog.