General Ramblings

Identity Crisis: Storytelling vs. Writing

This was originally posted on A Boles Undertaking as a guest post that I wrote.

It started with narrating my own life. I’d be standing in front of my friends at the age of 6 years old, acting out the latest in our extremely complicated unicorn princess game, and hear my own voice inside my head. “The trees are full of flowers. The lilacs make the field smell beautiful. And she will walk towards the den and make the magic happen.”

This isn’t unheard of for writers. Every one I’ve spoken to tells a similar story – narrating in their heads, hearing characters speaking to them in the dead of night, or using happy, sad, and neutral situations to form stories no one’s heard yet. We all do it. It’s like an inborn gene – it’s just happening all the time, from as far back as we can remember.

So I could have been born a storyteller, but the choice I made to pursue it is why I’m writing this post today. I made a choice to be a writer, but I was born to tell stories.

My parents and I sat at the kitchen table the summer I turned 19 and discussed my university program options. I wanted to do English and History. They thought the only reason anyone would take those programs was to become a teacher. And they couldn’t understand – I didn’t want to teach. I wanted to write. And not only that, I wanted to write historical fiction.

I did end up doing two years of a history degree before dropping out due to mental illness and desperation. I went to Journalism school and completed that diploma, getting a job in online marketing and working on and off. I put my own writing on hold because the editor at the magazine I interned at told me never to pursue writing you can’t be paid for. And I hated writing then, even though I told stories – told them when I walked with my best friend on Yates St. in St. Catharines, breathing in the spring air. Told them through the lines on my arms and the paleness of my face. Continued writing poetry because it seemed “okay”, though writing actual stories didn’t. Because never whore yourself out, I was told. Never write for anything but a good paycheque. Writing is so useless unless it works for you.

How can anyone tell anyone else when it’s okay to write? But they do.

I picked my writing back up during a confused and hurt time in my life, when I was in an abusive relationship and trying to figure myself out. I was trying to save someone else and I needed a place to dump the feelings I hadn’t felt since I was 21. When you bury something for so long, it comes out in destructive ways if you can’t harness it. So I joined a writing contest, I started to write, and suddenly I realized that I’d been unhappy and sick and not myself because I was missing a fundamental part of my life.

You can bury it under diagnoses and medicine. You can hide it and pretend you’re too good for it. You can keep it in the back of your head, know that it’s there when you need it (and pray it actually is, when you really do want it!), but you won’t really feel like a writer until you admit it.

I could never have stopped writing because I was born to be a storyteller. I made the choice to write, and I haven’t looked back since.

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2 thoughts on “Identity Crisis: Storytelling vs. Writing

  1. I identify with this a lot. I hope I can have the courage to keep exploring my writing and deal with the weird things it does to my energy at times.

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