On Touchstones – We need them in storytelling and in life

Everything in my life has been coming back to relevance. As I develop this new phase of my life, I am trimming away anything that doesn’t serve me. I have modified my patterns of behavior, thought modes, and emotional triggers. My motto is: If it doesn’t serve me, it goes.

That perspective makes things easier, because it works for just about every aspect of my life. It particularly applies to my writing life. As a writer, I tend to want to write down all the words, all the explanations. I want to give my readers everything they might need so they feel cared for and safe in joining me on the journey. Here’s the thing I’ve realized. Readers don’t necessarily want to feel safe. They want the want the freedom to discover and imagine the world. All I need to give them are the touchstones that let them leap into the world and imagine it for themselves.

So, my other motto is: “No wasted words.” More often than not, the people with whom you are communicating want to hear what you have to say and then form their own questions. And if they want to know what happens next, so much the better.

Yesterday, I saw the new movie, “The Nice Guys.” It is bout two private detectives in late 70s Los Angeles. The movie was great fun. I enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the set design. The producers and designers found the cars, advertisements, knickknacks, clothing etc. of the era to give us a real look and feel of that time. They gave us the touchstones. On the one hand, I loved the nostalgia, having grown up in the 70s. On the other hand, I loved the attention to detail. They got the details right, but they never hit me over the head with them. In other words, I had the touchstones, but I was free to fill in the rest with my own imagination.

It made for a richer experience.

As communicators, we must give our audience sufficient touchstones to make them comfortable but few enough to keep them hungry for more. That works for writing and for our personal relationships. If we give the other person enough to keep them comfortable with what they know, they will feel safer in asking for what they still want to know.

What is your take on communicating in this way? Does it feel comfortable or fill you with some discomfort? Drop a line and let me know.

Sending you all my love.
Z


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