I tell stories. Out loud, to my inner self, to my wife, to my child, to anyone who will listen. When you ask me a question, expecting a yes or no answer, you get the long version in reply. Words just spill out, I once told my daughter when she complained about having to write so much in college, that if she couldn’t just sit down and write 1000 words on any given subject—well, we’d just have to consider her paternity.
Now I realize that not everyone is blessed/cursed with this ability. And, I know that getting the story in your head to flow out of your fingers onto a blank white page is not as easy as I make it sound. I believe that everyone can and should write. They should record the stories that are in them, regardless of the spelling and grammar challenges that they think they would encounter. What stories, you ask. Everyone has a story, everyone has multiple stories within them; they just have to share them with others.
You don’t believe that you have stories in you? I try to regularly watch “The Story Trek” on BYU-TV which is based on the premise that everyone has a story and it is the mission of the show to ‘trek’ about, drawing those stories out of anyone who can be convinced to share them. Time and again the host of the show, a former network journalist/personality, proves that, indeed, everyone has a story to tell.
You weren’t expecting to talk about you, were you? Are you thinking I suckered you with the lead-in? Nah, don’t worry. But in order to explain me, I first have to tell you what I believe about storytelling — before I can tell you why I have to write.
The first step in my journey to become a writer was learning how to make letters. Yep, I’m talking penmanship, printing block letters, learning to link them together in smooth, readable cursive script and all of that stuff. Later, I learned to make stylized letters when I was taught beginning drafting. I sucked at them all; there was nothing beautiful about my handwriting in any way. It did give me a tool that still serves me well; the stories within me are able to drain through my fingers onto that blank white page that lies before everyone sitting down to write.
I was bamboozled into taking a ‘type’ class, back in the era of manual typewriters. I was told it would add skills that would A. help in job searches in that foggy, nebulous time after high school or B. make college life easier if you took that path instead. Yeah, sure. Even with the advent of electric machines, my speed never got to the point where it would tip the scales in my favor in any job competition. But it gave me the skills to quickly write the ideas in my head and see the result on the page as if they were published. Bonanza! Eureka! The entire class period during my senior year in high-school (Thanks Mrs. E, I haven’t told anyone until now) was spent staring out the window, typewriting bad beat poetry and snippets of bombastic manifestos about the power and purity of youth and the unfairness and corruption of ‘THE MAN.’ (If this doesn’t make any sense to you, Google the late ‘60’s and the youth resentment against ‘THE MAN’)
The second part of having to write is learning to read. Literally, from the Dick and Jane Readers and Scholastic Newsletters (fuzzily printed on newsprint) to an effort at “War & Peace”, reading was/is training for being able to write. I recently read that Hunter S. Thompson (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and many other great stories/essays) retyped “The Great Gatsby” and “A Farewell to Arms” in order to learn about writing styles and to experience what novel writing is about. Reading has done this for me. I will share my old cliché to explain. I read voraciously, upwards of 8-10 novels per month. This doesn’t count the magazines, newspapers, websites, scriptures, proofreading, editing, etc. that I do. If there isn’t anything else in the house to read, my Amazon budget is expired, or the library doesn’t entice, I will read the dictionary or the encyclopedia.
When I read, unless it is very poorly written, the story comes alive in my mind. Characters are fleshed out, dialogue is virtually heard, there in my mind, and scenes play out as if in reality. I am transported into the world of the story.
Why do I have to write? I might as well ask why I have to breath. Expelling CO2 from your lungs is fundamental to life. Expelling the words from my mind is fundamental to making my life sane.
Whether telling a story or watching words dribble. down. a. page. in poesy, I am expelling word-steam from my mind that is overheating and expanding to the point it must come out.
I wrote above about the reality of the story as I read a novel. When I write, those same realities play out. Characters and plot drive themselves. A friend, who is a published author, told me that she writes because it is the only world that she can control. I write because I have no control. If I decide that a character must go West, the final words on the page show that indeed that character went South because he had to see a man about a dog. Does that make any sense to you? It startled the hell out of me when it first happened.
In the end, and after talking around a lot of other things, I write because I must. I was created to write, I write to honor that creation. I hope you enjoy reading my writing, it is why it was created.
See, it wasn’t that hard, just over a 1000 words in little over an hour. You can do it too. You should do it too.
Michael, “Mike” to his friends, is a writer, striving to be an author. He has been a teller of tales since elementary school and garnered a slew of rejections from even that early age (you can read samples of his stories at www.skullvalleytales.blogspot.