Making an Impact

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Because my wife is awesome, she often does little things that make my day as awesome as she is. One of those things popped up today.

I have been a fan of the band Bon Jovi for as long as I have had any real awareness of music. The first compact disc I ever bought with my own money was “Keep the Faith”, and Bon Jovi songs have had a fairly significant place throughout the soundtrack of my life. Because of my wife’s awesomeness, she saw and recorded an interview with Jon Bon Jovi, which I finished watching moments ago. (Yes, I am aware that it is currently Friday night, and I am at home watching interviews recorded off the Oprah Winfrey Network, but it’s been a long week and all that is beside the point.)

In the interview, Jon Bon Jovi said many things that affected me. He spoke about how the four forms of artistic medium (Books, Films, Art – as in paintings – and Music) are all interconnected. He talked about how you can succeed at anything if you work at it hard enough. He made the point that if your art came from a true place within you then it would ring true and would make an impact with your audience. The most important thing, above all others, was making that impact.

As I discussed in my last blog post, I have been feeling very frustrated with many things lately. After another week of dwelling in the dungeon – and a particularly disgusting incident where a prisoner asked for food, then promptly used it to plug their toilet while they pooped on the floor and gave us the finger (I have no idea what it is about jail that makes people want to manipulate their own feces) – work has not been my favourite thing. 

The main thing sapping my motivation at work, I realized after listening to Mr Bon Jovi talk about his own life, is that I am having no impact. While working in the dungeon I am nothing more than a way-station to a group of people who are singularly pissed off with life. I have very little opportunity to have any meaningful dialogue with any of the prisoners, partially because my time is very much at a premium, but mostly because they are already dissatisfied with the actions of the police in general (see: they have been arrested and are in jail where they adamantly do not want to be), and have no interest in talking to me at all; unless they want to ask for an extra blanket or call me a “fucking goof”. While confined to my subterranean realm, I do not get to investigate crimes or have any interaction with “normal” people. I am only the Gaoler, and my primary function is to keep people from running off into the night.

I have had no satisfaction in my writing life, either. Despite figuring out what it was about my current project that wasn’t working, that was making it ring false, I have had no further progress on it. In fact, I haven’t so much as opened the document on my computer, let alone put any words down.

I think, after having an epiphany while staring at the televised image of a rock star whose music has seen me through twenty years of my life, that the problem with my story is very much a question of impact. I am not affected by it. Despite my declaration otherwise, I am not particularly compelled by it. The idea is good. The plot is sound. The character has the potential to be interesting. But the story is not speaking to me. It does not ring true in my ears. It is not tearing at the inside of my head, trying desperately to get out.

It is only sitting, and waiting. And this I cannot abide.

Stories, whether they are told through words on a page or the lyrics of a song, are all about impact. And that impact has to be for the storyteller as well as the reader/listener. If you don’t believe in the story you’re telling, then no one else is going to believe in it either. If you are not compelled to tell the story, then how can you expect anyone else to be compelled to hear it.

I have a very serious job of work ahead of me, I think. I either have to figure out a way for this story to have impact, both for me and my audience, or I have to get busy on a story that does the trick.

Another thing Jon Bon Jovi said during his interview was that it was better to have tried and failed than to sit around wondering if you might have made it. As a writer, if you are sitting around doing nothing, that isn’t even a failure, it is a waste. It is a waste of your time, your talent and your craft.

It is time for me to get out of a state of waste. There is a long road ahead, and at the end there might be failure, but any road with a story is a good one.

As always, thanks for reading.