Storyteller VS Writer
By all accounts, I shouldn’t be a writer. I have been told my whole life that I couldn’t write because I didn’t know how to write. I couldn’t spell or grasp the difference between a verb and a subject. I don’t know what a dangling something or other is but I seem to do it religiously. I can’t seem to remember when ‘a’ should be used or an ‘an.’ I can’t seem to retain the simple rules of sentence structure and I LOVE dashes! And does the common or period go in the quote or out? Ugh! I’m hopeless! So I believed all those people that told me, “you can’t write.”
All those poor English teachers that tried to teach me, and then realized I was never going to get it. Then said, in hopes to save me from pain, “Leave writing for other people. Why don’t you learn to draw if you want to be creative?” They had no idea I couldn’t draw either!
But I could tell a story with the best of them. Not that I was good at making up stories…for I wasn’t. But I could tell you something that happened to me – and in the end, you thought you were right next to me when it all went down – that’s how good I can tell a story. My step-dad and mom said that after I told them about a movie, they would never have to see it, the movie could never live up to my rendition. (I also have a bit of actress in me too!)
So I never wrote. I knew I had lots to say, but I told myself I just wasn’t good enough to write, and I’d make a fool of myself if I tried.
As I got older, I tried to teach myself to write. I got all kinds of English books, and thought if I didn’t have a teacher breathing down my neck, maybe I could learn these concepts that apparently kids learn in 2nd grade! If they could do it then I could! But alas, I couldn’t. I just don’t have the type of brain that can grasp and hold onto the concepts of proper writing. (is ‘proper writing’…proper?)
So I didn’t write. But I never gave up the hope that a miracle might happen for me. Well, really, two miracles did happen…
One, out of the blue; stories started to come to me. They were funny and interesting and they were fiction! I never – ever, was able to ‘make anything up before.’ For six years, I wrote them down. And secretly a wish started to take hold…I wanted to publish them, but how? I couldn’t write.
In came the second miracle. It was just a shift really, I realized that I didn’t HAVE to know how to write. I could pay someone else to fix all my mistakes and make it ‘written well.’
So that’s what I started to do. And my creative mind was unleashed! I started writing stories, articles, speeches and educational programs! And all I had to do was to have someone with the editing skill set to fix what was needed.
Just having that simple shift in my perspective I started to write. I also continue to try and improve my writing so it would be easier on the person editing my material (which is so gratefully accepted.) But I don’t drive myself crazy trying to do something that I’m really not good at.
At first, I started out with friends, who had a better skill set than me, edit my stories and educational programs which was wonderful, but they had work of their own to do. Then I found a perfect partner in my new roommate, Rae. She took four years of journalism and she has the laser focus of an English teacher on steroids when it comes to sentence structure! She catches all the dangling stuff and she makes me look good! (Ok, better.) She doesn’t have all the ‘writing’ answers, but she can save me from looking like a complete fool!
A few weeks ago, I was working on getting this blog up and running, as Rae was editing my posts. She called me into the office to ‘have a talk with me.’ I have to admit, it felt like I was getting called into the principles office, and I had to prepare myself for something bad…
She started off saying those dreaded words that I had heard my whole life. She said, “I know that you are getting calling cards made up, and getting your blog ready, and you are calling yourself a writer, but you’re not really a writer.”
I then felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I felt my blood pressure start to rise. I thought, ‘Oh crap, here we go again.’ But she then went on. She said that by telling others that I’m a writer, that it implies that I have the technical skills of a writer when in actuality, I don’t. And she didn’t want others to judge me by that ruler.
I felt myself just deflate.
She continued on, “Your strong suit is your ability to tell a story, not writing. Callaghan, you’re a storyteller – that’s what you do, and you do it better than most! I know so many writers that have all the technical skills in the world and yet have nothing to say. Then I read all that you have asked me to edit, and I see that you have so much to say… you’re a STORYTELLER.”
I sat there and just let the word storyteller wash over me. I rolled it around in my brain like a sommelier would with wine. And it fits like a glove. I found it interesting that she would pick this morning to bring this up to me, seeing I already laid out my draft for this post about not needing to know the technique of writing – to write.
I chose the topic because I know a lot of people have had this same issue. We trust our teachers and parents to guide us early in life, and yet that ‘help’ can stop our creative expression.
For instance, I have an older sister, Matilda. She is an avid reader, (really she’s more of a RABID speed reader if you ask me). She actually reads 6-8 books a week, she’s also retired, so she has the time. She always has read like that even as a child. I think she preferred the worlds in the books than to her own life, but that’s just my unsolicited opinion.
She is amazing with the volume of books she reads, but she doesn’t write. Or at least she doesn’t share her writing. I think she secretly writes, but that’s just a theory of mine…
But last year sometime, I got the itch to find a way to connect with my older sister. She lives on the West Coast, and we don’t see each other for very long clumps of time. So I thought that maybe we could find some common ground in writing a novel together. Just for us, not for publication or anything- didn’t need that pressure! I had never attempted a novel or the writing style called collaborative fiction. Where we would both write from two different protagonists point of view and our characters would meet up at some point. I thought it would be a good exercise that we could connect over.
But she wasn’t all that interested in the project. After further conversation, it seems that she feels that she ‘can’t write’. Even though she knows so much about the styles of writing, and how to weave plot and arc’s and all the development of a story, but for the first time, she admitted to me, “I can’t spell well, and I’m not the best at grammar. I can’t write.” I was floored!
Here’s a woman that has read thousands of books; reads a very large scope of work in all genres, and she feels that she doesn’t have the skills to write! My mind was blown! Again, she too had a belief that she picked up from elsewhere and lived it out in her life. (Oh! So we do have something in common- who’d of thunk!)
I said, “I have those same issues, but let’s just try and see what happens.” To my disappointment, she wouldn’t or couldn’t get past this ‘I can’t write’ to actually give it a try.
So that’s the purpose of this blog, to say “YES! YOU CAN WRITE.” You can hire someone to edit. Listen up – If you have the stories in you, if you have the desire to put the time into a project then DO IT. Don’t listen to all those that said you ‘can’t’ and just DO IT! I am. Join me.
QUESTION: Let me know if you had a similar experience around the writing ‘from helpful’ people. And share your story here. I’d love to hear it. And if you can – kick the old belief, and these people’s voices in your head -to the curb!
EXTRA TIDBIT – If you say, “I will try writing my stories, but I don’t have anyone to edit for me!” then I have a great cheap tool for you to try. Have you heard of www.fiverr.com? It’s where you can HIRE someone to edit your stories for just $5.00! I’m not kidding FIVE BUCKS! I haven’t used an editor from the site, but I have used graphic artists and logo designers and only paid $5.50 for each project (.50 cents is for Fiverr and $5.00 bucks goes to the artist). LOOK IT UP. It’s BRILLIANT! And I even got a graphic artist to make the header on this blog! Yep! I only paid $5.00 bucks for my header! (UPDATE 2018- Fiverr has changed a lot. Higher prices and a lot of new amazing skills for hire.)