by Sharon Stevens
“Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given objects subjective value can actually be measured objectively.”
Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker
Several years ago Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker came up with a brilliant idea. They would purchase an object then pair it with a writer to create a story linking the two. This became a social media experiment connecting people on the internet. Their hypothesis was: “Narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones…to acquire not merely subjective but objective value.”
I was reminded of this endeavor when I opened my Facebook page and clicked on Bonnie Derby’s store “Needful Things” next door to the Blue Bird Restaurant in Centerville Iowa. A beautiful glass swan was being displayed alongside the iridescent jewels following behind. Who could possibly need a swan when there are so many needs in the world? For that matter, who would need the aprons, or the ironing boards or the sewing machines? Or, to go even farther, what worth is there in biscuits and gravy you could order next door.
What about biscuits and gravy you ask. What about them? Seeing them on the computer screen on Dann’s blog at the Blue Bird brings up the most wonderful thoughts of family time, Christmas mornings, Sunday brunch, late suppers after a hard day of chasing fundraisers and child hood passions. Of course there is cholesterol and fats and salt, and…and…and…this is a given. But on the other side of the coin there is the sizzle that comes with bacon or sausage dancing in the cast iron skillet, eggs over easy, potatoes fried in leftover drippings. But the most powerful image has to be with everyone sitting down at the table together sharing a simple meal without drama or pain. Isn’t that worth something to someone today, tomorrow or yesterday?
None of these are needful things. Life cannot be sustained by treasuring inanimate objects. Nay, coveting is an offense decried in the Bible. But then again, what if someone wanted to live their story instead of writing it down. Couldn’t the tangible objects they- purchase fuel the passion, or sooth their tender heart? Whose law demands everything they spend their hard earned dollar on to be worthy and justifiable on the expense account. This is not prideful or Biblical, but merely a reminder of all that is good and wonderful in all that surrounds us.
So don’t feel silly about writing a story on an insignificant object. Make it a significant treasure. Celebrate and be joyful that as writers we can we take such tiny moments of human interaction and set it to words, even if it is about pink swans and how it connects to biscuits and gravy.
On another note, Jason Boyett sent a Facebook note about his friend and author Shawn Smucker and his family coming to town. He will be in Amarillo next week and at the Palace Coffee Company on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas on April 26, 2012 from 6:45 to 9pm. A free event (it would be nice to make a purchase), this will be an evening for conversation about books, writing, blogging or anything else. Smucker writes a blog, “Writng Across America.”
I wonder what “needful things” he and his family will find while they are here.