institute for documentary studies
 

{Week 9: Writing}

Week 9: Writing

This is the beginning.
 
This is the middle.
 
This the end.

 

I went to the store.
 
I bought a toothbrush.
 
On the way home, I dropped my toothbrush.

 

Simple, yet riveting! A, then B, then C. But what if the middle began, and the beginning ended, and the end fell somewhere in between? Does the story still make sense?

 

I bought a toothbrush.
 
On the way home, I dropped my toothbrush.
 
I went to the store.

 

Or how about…

 

On the way home, I dropped my toothbrush.
 
I bought a toothbrush.
 
I went to the store.

 

Stripped of their details, these barebones nonlinear stories are devoid of logic. You can understand the gist of the subject matter, maybe, but not the sequence of events. They remind me of the nights I sat on my couch, reading a book, while my mother tried to skip over the commercials on T.V.; first, she fast forwarded too far ahead, then rewound too far behind, and then was back where she started, forced to watch the commercial again.

 

Even if the structure of the story is reversed, or crisscrossed, or overlapping with different perspectives, a story is still there—moving the reader forward even if they are going backwards or sideways through time. Playing with time is a dangerous exercise, as the writing can topple over itself into an incoherent mess, leaving you ten miles behind where you started at some unforgettable Burger King rest stop off the highway. But if done right, a story, once freed from the confines of a linear structure, can pack a more powerful punch. With the narrative agency to rearrange time, the writer can manipulate the raw elements of the story to make a greater and more lasting point.

 

I am in the process of completing this week’s writing assignment, a 500 word non-linear essay, and mixing my audio for my multimedia profile. Despite the different mediums, the work is the same; by disregarding the natural sequence of events, I can create a seamless story with its own narrative logic. I’ve been moving around sentences on the page, copy-paste, delete, go back, copy-paste, with the same haphazard frequency as audio clips on my timeline. The more I work, the more I lose perspective and become overwhelmed, held hostage by my own work. I have to remind myself to step away, take a breath, go eat, and come back with fresh eyes.

 

I finished my story.
 
I forgot to eat lunch.
 
I started my story.