What’s in a name? A favorite Shakespeare quote of mine (although Romeo and Juliet is NOT on my top ten list of greatest books of all time—not even top 100). The answer is—a lot. What’s in a title—a lot (big bucks on certain ones, although I always get the little bucks). So if names and titles are significant, what then do I call myself? Call it my penchant for simplicity, but I choose storyteller. Why this, over loftier, more professional sounding ones, like novelist, or greatest poet on God’s green earth? Well it goes back to my initial definition of the term, and a desire on my part to broaden things, as opposed to narrowing them. Also if you were to look at it from a historical sense, organized storytelling is an ancient art form that has been with wo/man since perhaps the days of cavemen. Whenever there was a gathering of people, there was always someone designated as the storyteller, and if you could weave tales better than Charlotte could a web, then you’d be revered. In addition stories are how cultures were passed down, and if you compare this to novels, which are historically speaking—novel, then you’d understand why I align myself with the more ancient definition of the term.
Now titles aside, the deeper question is why do I write? Although I have shared my tales orally, the written word has superseded the ancient storyteller of lore. As a writer (modern counterpart) what compels me to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard? Fanny Fern wrote in the classic Ruth Hall, that “no happy woman writes” and I suppose, there is a great deal of truth to that. Pain is the basis of all great learning, which thus is a writer’s tool to crafting a great tale. Aside from that, if you were happy all the time, what in the hell would you write about? “Oh look at me, what a beautiful day! I’m happy again—hip-hip hooraaaayyyyyyy!” Yeah—no. Call me a cynic, but I have a sneaking suspicion, that most people aren’t that damn happy, and generally speaking, find happy go lucky people, to be really annoying.
Aside from the happiness or lack thereof on my part, my second motivation is compulsion. I write, because I’m compelled to write. I was crafting my own little books, using the cardboard piece from my mother’s stocking packaging as a cover (hell—call me industrious), and pieces of notebook paper glued into it, when I was five years old. And for over twenty years, I spent the greater part of my free time, verbally sharing my stories, to my one and quite devoted fan (which was a real person—no I’m not crazy!). Telling stories is as natural and simplistic for me, as making a sandwich (ham sandwiches with pepper-jack cheese are great; also Oscar Meyer smoked turkey, the only kind I eat, are fab as well), however as complex and emotionally fraught as the deepest love affair.
So simply put, I write because I love it, and because I was born to do it. But at the end of the day, I am, what I believe most people are, a really big fan of great stories. And that is the crux of any masterful storyteller.