Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Storyteller's Conundrum

I've always said I was a writer. I even mention it in my profile here, and probably all my useless dating profiles. But, I don't think that's quite accurate. I write, yes, but "writer" is too vague, I think. It doesn't convey the right image.

What I am is a storyteller. My mind is awash with a thousand characters, plots, settings, and endless streams of dialogue at any given moment. Let's not even get into the random lines of gibberish of some fabricated language I don't have the wherewithal to actually build. Perhaps if I'd been able to take more linguistics courses...

I often struggle to compose article style writings, which is funny, since I started a blog specifically for that. I have profound--at least I think they're somewhat profound--thoughts, but they often manifest in a tangled jumble that flows out in some unplanned stream of consciousness that trails off rather than ends.

Narrative comes far more naturally to me. In the last couple of weeks, I've been digging around in the pile of thoughts, trying to construct some sort of coherent non-fictional prose, but the first lines that always come to mind are the beginnings of stories that likely won't ever be written.

And the bad thing is? I could do it. I would weave my personal issues into carefully crafted short stories. I did it in college. My years as an upper classman were fraught with emotional bullshit as I started treating my anxiety disorder, entered the kink scene, and navigated my first relationships in my life. My fiction classes wouldn't allow me to write the fantasy that is my first and most prominent literary love, so I wrote about polyamory, kink parties, breakups, bdsm-themed noir, abusive relationships, suicide, and intricately detailed descriptions of dirty trailer homes.

Those stories were inevitably full of those people and places which inspired them. I don't think all those who appeared in those stories have read them. I'm not entirely sure how they would feel if they did. Which is why I don't really do that now. I know I could craft stories of my emotional turmoil, but those who read them will inevitably recognize themselves in the characters.

I am the artist who paints what I see as accurately as possible. I'm just better with a pen than a brush.

But the key aspect of this whole storyteller business is that an audience is necessary. I think that's the biggest distinction between storyteller and writer. If I were just a writer, I would be content with the writing. The words on the page would be enough. I could purge all the emotion and imagination on the page, and there wouldn't be need for anything more. I could be satisfied that the words were written.

But it's not enough. Someone has to read it. Someone has to feel the feelings I bleed onto the page. They have to see the things I see, hear the words I hear, know the people I know. Hear the endless parade of voices in my head.

It's why I've never been able to keep a diary with any sort of consistency or real enthusiasm. I always found myself inevitably writing as if I were speaking to someone, as if I expected someone to read the words someday, even though they were often private frustrations or hate-filled railings that one can't actually say out loud.

It's also why I can't follow some advice I recently received. Because of the smallness of the local community, I can't fully write out the cathartic pieces I need to without adversely affecting others that I have no desire nor intention to hurt. It was suggested that I write them out anyway, and post them when I'm ready. But it doesn't work that way for me. They are things that I don't know that I can ever feasibly post, at least not in an arena where those involved would read them and know that they are there in those words.

But in order for the works to be complete, to provide the catharsis they are intended to give, an audience is imperative. The feedback is needed. The simple knowledge that the story has been shared, has been told, has been told to someone is integral to the experience of the storyteller.

I am not simply an artist, satisfied with the creation of my art. I am, in my heart of hearts, inescapably a performer. Perhaps not of the nature one typically imagines, but, for me, my art is not art unless it is shared.

My sorrow, my shame, my love, my loss, my joy, my grief, my passion can never be fully expunged until I am no longer the only one feeling them.

Thus is the burden of the storyteller.


  1. "I am the artist who paints what I see as accurately as possible. I'm just better with a pen than a brush."


    "... my art is not art unless it is shared."

    I am so with you on this! I too want to be read. I have always been busy with writing, but I only really started growing in it when I knew there was an audience for my art. This is a wonderful post, and someone a lot of people will be able to identify with, I am sure of that!

    Rebel xox

    1. Thanks! I've always been a scribbler, but I find my best work tends to manifest itself when I'm writing it for someone else's eyes. There's magic in writing for someone.

  2. This is beautifully written. My blog is a cathartic release in places but I have also written many pieces, in the same style, that will never be published due to confidentiality and other, similarly complex reasons. When I started the blog it was just for me, but now I have an audience I'm sad these other pieces must remain unpublished. Your piece has made me wonder whether I'm a storyteller rather than a writer. Thank you.