Viola Davis won her first Oscar last night for her supporting role in Fences. Of course, she had to follow up a much-deserved win with a speech the internet isn’t going to forget (for another 24 hours or so, at least).
Every Academy Award winner’s speech is different – understandably so – but as a writer and long-time story lover, I can’t help but adore the ones that highlight not only an artist’s dependence upon, but their appreciation for where all books, shows and movies begin – the stories.
Before thanking her many support systems, Davis finished up her tribute to storytelling with the quote still circulating on social media platforms as I write this:
“We [artists] are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
(You can watch her full speech here.)
This doesn’t just apply to actors – it applies to everyone involved in the production of a work of art. The directors. Set designers. Composers. And yes, the writers, too.
Never forget that in your hobby, in your career, in your life, you have choices. As a writer, you get to choose the kinds of stories you want to tell. You have the power to showcase the lives of both extraordinary and ordinary people – people who have achieved their dreams and people who haven’t. Characters who have happy endings, and characters who don’t.
Never forget that every story begins with some kind of life. Each character may be surrounded by a particular environment or event, but a good story isn’t about what you decide is going to happen to a character. A good story is about how you decide a character is going to react to everything that happens to them, what they are going to learn, how they are going to change. Sometimes, they’ll thrive. Sometimes, they’ll crumble. But that’s a reflection of real life – of living, whether there’s a happily ever after or not.
Though it may not always seem like it, you have complete control over the kinds of stories you want to tell. Who are you going to give a voice to? What do you want a reader to know, to feel, to remember, to believe? These are the kinds of questions you have to ask yourself. These are the motivations for every artist, however they tell stories – celebrating living, in all its ups and downs, in all its truths and lies. Every element of a story has a purpose. It’s up to you, the writer, to create it, to have faith in it, to make it heard.
Congrats, Viola – and thank you for helping to bring so many writers’ stories to life, in the past, present and future!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.
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