Each form has opened a secret portal into other worlds where I, as storyteller, can imagine or experiment with a universe of possibilities. I can stretch identity, stepping boundlessly into the life of any character. So far, I’ve been a jazz singer, even though in real life, I cannot hold a tune—a White dad, I named him Kyle Kaminski—a Black weirdo obsessed with Charlie Kaufman… okay, that one was autobiographical.
Before ever realizing my multipotentiality, I’ve shapeshifted, through the alchemy of drama, into a plethora of personalities. Punk bandleader—check. Motel manager—check. Waitress at the Waffle House—check, please!
Fiction’s landscape is ripe for multipotential tales. Our story gardens can take shape as luscious stage plays, opulent novels, flourishing poetry, dense graphic novels, or colorful animations.
Currently, I’m gathering my family’s memories and reimagining their life accounts through narrative photography. These images, self-portraits mostly, will mark my kinfolk’s presence within the greater timeline of African American history. It’s a fun way to mine personal archives and understand the lives of those who came before. I get to put on my Uncle David’s wedding dress. Or, what I envision he wore in 1973, when he staged a grand gay wedding in the middle of conservative America. When I slip into Dave’s girdle (not the actual thing) and slide on his Nixon-era mustache, I can embody all the joy and torture of waiting at the altar for a groom who never shows. When I learned my first name was given to me out of respect for a woman engaged in the late ‘60s Black liberation struggle, I could delve a little deeper into understanding both the movement of Black Nationalism and the women who carried its banner.
Inside Emilie’s book, How To Be Everything, she shows us how certain careers grant multipods the opportunity to explore the breadth of their skill sets. Indie filmmakers, especially, give themselves permission to wear lots of hats: “writing, drawing/storyboarding, directing, photography, editing, music composition, business event planning, marketing, and more.” Writing fiction allows us to take this idea further. We can live our best puttylike lives across the span of time. Want to head back to the pre-industrial age and yield a peasant farmer’s mighty flail? We can do this through fiction. Want to Charleston deep into the prosperous, Golden Twenties? Step inside our Art Deco apartments and recline onto a silk settee? Create this life through fiction. How about the future? If we have new and improved ideas for the sci-fi genre, fiction has the power to teleport!
Creating fiction can help us live on the edge, safely, from the seat at our writing desks. No hard drugs required. I’ve had so many literary love affairs, I could compile them into a small collection of steamy romance novels. Terrified of heights? Tackle that fear by placing characters inside a hot air balloon or at the control panel of an aircraft cockpit. Scared of alligators? We can allow the art of storytelling to pull us knee deep into Florida’s swamps. If it’s any comfort, these large reptiles prefer the taste of muskrats over human flesh.
The art of fiction can take multipotentialites around the world. In pre-Covid days, before we were called to stay closer to home, I’d wander the globe in search of story. Especially magnetized by gatherings that reflect our human relationship to tradition and ritual, I’ve ventured into sacred circles where Gnawa music, several hundred years old, is flung from the hearts of men. I’ve driven across the Croatian countryside to learn how to bake (and photograph) Mantala, a sticky dessert crafted from wine must. I’ve hung out backstage to document the rites of thespians. These ceremonies—witnessing them, participating in them, documenting them—are a thrilling form of research. And multipotentialites love research. We can put our probings to work by applying these inquiries and adventures to our storytelling. Preparing Mantala can lead future readers into a thirsty tale about a food blogger. The backstage experience can transform into a novel about a nail-biting understudy. The sacred sounds of Gnawa can take our audiences on a trek from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
So, are you ready to write? Let’s raise our mighty multipod pens and author ourselves into the canon of great literature. The world needs more tales born from curious and wonderful minds of multipotentialites.
Has your creativity turned to fiction? Are you living vicariously through characters of your own imagining? Tell us what you’re writing? Let us know in the comments!