Note: For the past few weeks, fellow blogger Melissa Boles has been doing a series on her blog all about storytelling, in which guest writers share their thoughts on what it means to be a storyteller and what stories mean to them. I saw the call for guest writers a bit late, so I didn’t submit anything. But the series still got me thinking about storytelling, what it is to me, and my changing perceptions on what it means for me to be one.
For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been hesitant to call myself a “storyteller.” That title has always been reserved for two types of writers, in my mind: fiction writers, who create their own worlds and manipulate characters however they will; and journalists, who relate the lives and experiences of others to their readers in compelling ways. I am neither of those things. Therefore, I am no storyteller.
I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to other writers, and that often involves forming these images in my head of what writers are supposed to be. For example, I think that writers are all tortured souls who have stories inside of them that they just need to get out, or that they listen to underground bands, drink coffee, and dress funny (a.k.a. all writers are hipsters, I guess). I don’t really know why I do this because according to my own stereotypes of what a writer should be, I’m not a writer.
I do the same thing with the concept of a storyteller. I’m becoming more aware that nonfiction writers are just as much storytellers as fiction writers and journalists, but when I read other nonfiction writers’ works (whether they are books, blogs, or columns), I feel like their stories are much more entertaining, profound, or beautiful than anything I could write. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be counted in their ranks.
As I’ve been reflecting on my own life and the twists and turns that it’s made and continues to make, though, I realize that I’ve learned some share-worthy lessons from it. I guess I wouldn’t have started a blog if I didn’t feel that way.
I think that’s the key to being a storyteller: paying attention to our lives to try to discern meaning from them. We don’t need to lead exceptionally interesting or eventful lives, as I’m sometimes tempted to believe when I’m struggling to come up with writing fodder. We just need to be able to pull the extraordinary out of the ordinary, to find lessons in the mundane, and to be able to step back from our own lives and see the value that it might hold for somebody else. If I think about storytelling that way, then I’m definitely a storyteller.
The storyteller’s life is a reflective one, one that isn’t content to just let life happen without a second thought. We’re constantly seeking the transcendent and the something greater in our daily existence, trying to figure out what everything that happens to us could mean and to weave chaos and pain into redemption. We do all this because we want our lives to be meaningful not just to ourselves, but to anyone who is willing to read or listen. I suppose storytelling is an extension of my belief that no man is an island; sometimes we need to listen to the stories of others so we feel less alone.
If my blog, the posts I write for So Worth Loving, or anything else I share can help people make sense of their own lives or make them feel less alone, even if it’s just one person, I think I’ve succeeded.