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How could you live and not have a story to tell?

"But how could you live and have no story to tell?"
- Dostoyevsky

 When I tell people I've been reading a book every two weeks (give or take) since I was fifteen or sixteen, I often get asked what kind of books I like reading - fiction or non-fiction. I used to tell people I read everything, and don't have any preferences as such. But I've realised that's not true. 

The things I read are all stories. It may be fiction. It may be non-fiction. It may be fantasy. It may be anything. But, at the end of the day, the narration is in the form of a story. There was a time when I used to pick out random articles on Wikipedia and read that. And the narration style in Wikipedia articles is factual and informative. And this is the kind I don't read anymore. I still refer to these when I need some facts, but this style of narration can only provide facts that I don't know. And never change my perspectives and biases. 

The only times I've had a change of perspective (outside of first hand experience) is when I've debated taking one side of the argument while a person whose thinking I trust and respect has taken the other side of the argument. And an average person reads like a two hundred times more frequently than she has 1:1 debates with someone else. 

And the key aspect of winning a debate lies in drawing examples that the other person can empathise with and using that to highlight the point you're trying to make. This is 101 in being an orator. Understanding the audience enough to be able to talk in their language and about the things they see day in and day out and yet talk about your point at the same time.

Which brings me to stories. If you're an introvert like me (you are if you prefer spending more time in front of your screen than with other people), then you're likely not having any 1:1 debates often. But you're constantly being part of debates of another kind. Stories.

You're either reading or writing stories. Each one of which is potentially a debate if it paints a picture that doesn't necessarily sit with your world view. And over time, you only read those who tell you compelling enough stories to make you question at least some biases that you hold. Which is why we all have our favourite authors. It is not their writing style or their command over the language and grammar that we read their work for. It is for the ideas they bring out. 

As Dostoyevsky puts it, anyone who lives has a story to tell. Just that most of us only want to be part of debates that we are sure of winning, and hence fail to put pen to paper. Because no one can be certain of winning all the time. But there are stories there nonetheless. 

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