10/10/2014 01:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017



Storytelling is a little like driving in Manhattan. Say you're downtown and you want to drive up to La Mirabelle, the French place on 86th between Columbus and Amsterdam, which serves steak and pommes frites, escargot and coquilles St. Jacques--in short all the so-called bourgeois cuisine which reminds you of the old days. You drive up Third Avenue and realizing there's traffic, take a right on 23rd so you can bee line up First Avenue or the FDR. You know where you're going and what you want and you can almost smell the food. You visualize the warm old-fashioned interior with its sometimes gruff but friendly staff. It's all waiting for you, you just have to figure out how to get there. You're ad-libbing and making decisions right up until you finally decide to park in front of one of the meters on Amsterdam. You may not have enough quarters on you, but maybe you'll finally trust that the meter won't eat your card, something you always fear. The path you finally take only makes sense in retrospect. Fundamentally, you're forced to decide what to do on a block-by-block basis. You may think you'll get lucky and not have to pay for a meter by looking for a space on one of the side streets. When 88th is blocked by a garbage truck, you try 90th. Everyone talks about outlines and characters and backstory when they're writing something, but this has little to do with how you're going to deal with adversity. Of course the one difference between creating a story and going to dinner is that you can always place the cursor on the last word you have written, hold the delete button and start all over again. But once you've done what you've done to get to La Mirabelle, order your food and begin to ingest, there's no turning back.

photo: Guy de Maupassant by Felix Nadar

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy blog of rans and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}