"Fiction is the lie that illuminates a greater truth..."
I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, and before that, I was a storyteller. I still prefer the term 'storyteller'. The written word is just a medium and isn't ever the whole story, which needs to live and breathe and be read and told over and over in order to explore all that's hidden inside of it. To bring a story to life it must live in our minds and hearts. It must become three-dimensional and rise off the page.
Once a story takes on a life, evolving and moving - then it has become immortal. The written word, however, only comes to life in the imagination of the reader, a highly suspect entity from a writer's point of view. Yet, as a storyteller, I write, in spite of my ambivalence to setting words down on paper so they can sit there forever unchanging, the breath taken right out of them.
This attitude toward writing began a long time ago, although I still remember the moment it began very clearly. I was discussing a story I had written with my first writing teacher. He looked disgusted as he finished reading the short piece and tossed it down.
"It's good enough I suppose. ...But it's just words on paper. Bloodless."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing. It's just that words are meant to be spoken, face to face. We're built to use all our senses -- to see the person telling us the story, to hear the timbre and tone of their voice and smell their sweat as they put a whole world together with their words. Writing is a one-dimensional art, relying on symbols of symbols. There isn't a full-blooded truth in it, and when you tell a story, you shouldn't be locked into the words on a page. You need to choose the words that your audience understands the best, metaphors that mean something to them, in their own lives. Otherwise your stories are dead things, waiting to be dissected or torn apart by scavengers looking for nourishment for their own egos, building themselves up by devouring and tearing apart the meal you've left for them. They'll twist the words you put down and make them into lies, quoting you out of context. I hate it. Writing is a poor man's way of communicating..."
"But you're a writer..."
"Of course I am. What else could I be?" He asked, without a trace of irony. "You expect me to tell my stories to the whole world one person at a time?"
After that, I understood what it meant to be a writer, to feel the need to reach out, and to connect. Today I can echo the feeling of my first teacher. I am a writer. What else could I be?