Part of my job involves taking minutes for council meetings. These become part of public record and are kept forever. I have books of minutes from the early 1900’s when this little town was first incorporated. Added to that, minutes are used to refer to later when issues resurface, so the accounting of a conversation or points made must be accurate. I’ve taken minutes for years and don’t find it difficult. Most of the time.
It is hard to maintain a simple recitation of what happened and who said what. I want stories. Especially since this is such a small town (160 people) I know the stories behind the statements. I understand why one person feels the way they do, what the real story is behind someone applying to build a fence, and so forth. Every action, every comment, every opinion, has a story supporting it. And yet those stories cannot appear in a legal, factual document.
Another thing that can be occasionally challenging is keeping personal opinion out of the minutes. When a person shows up acting nice before the council and an hour earlier they were threatening me to get what they wanted, it’s hard not to let that bias slip into the minutes. What I have found as a writer, when it comes to this problem, is that I think of it as a writing exercise. How can I professionally let opinion creep in unobtrusively? Is there a way to slant just the facts? Of course there is; politicians and reporters do it all the time. I just don’t want to be one of those people. And yet, the story is there begging to be at least hinted at, if not told.
Those stories can’t be told orally, either. I can’t be a gossip at work. And so I’m haunted by these stories that hover around me begging to be told, nudging me at the desk, and trying to force my fingers to type things I shouldn’t. So what is the solution? Well, gossip to my husband. And alternatively, snippets of conversations, bits of description, pieces of stories, find their way into my writing. A murder victim in the newest mystery might bear a similarity to the person who threatened me. That’s been a topic of posts before, how people should be careful or they’ll end up in novels. Yet, I find this to be unsatisfying. A piece of a story doesn’t make that hovering tale happy enough to go away.
I’ve posted about journals before, and maybe that needs to be combined with this challenge of mine at work. Maybe I need to tell all these stories to myself. A sort of Peyton Place in the mountains. Not for publication but to shoo away the words circling my head so I can get on with those pesky minutes. That actually might be fun. Of course it might also be a way to avoid other writing. Funny how one issue feeds into another, one thought leads to repercussions, one word leads to paragraphs. And minutes lead to stories. Or I guess a better way of putting is, how fact leads to fiction.