I’m a liar.
Aren’t we all in some way or other?
But, me… I’ve been lying to myself for a few years now. And lying to yourself… well, that’s one of the worse lies a person can tell. I reckon the bulk of lies we tell to people start with the lies we tell ourselves.
So, now I’m going to come clean.
I’ve been lying to myself, as well as everyone else out there, including you, the reader who I’ve often longed to please with my words.
It’s confession time and I’m not even Catholic. So, let’s go to the confessional and I’ll go in one door and you can go in the other. You may not all fit, but we can pretend it’s a clown car and then you will all be able to sit down comfortably. We can let that thin wall with the holes poked in it divide us as we sit in the dark,
You can ask me when the last time it was that I confessed and I’ll tell you the truth: I’ve never confessed.
Then you can get silent for a few minutes and say something like proceed, my child and I will. Oh, yes, I will.
And I will tell you I’ve sinned because I’ve lied and oh how I’ve lied. I’ll bow my head and look down at hands I can’t see, because remember it’s dark in this booth and you can’t see me and I can’t see you.
What, dear child, is your lie?
I’ll pause. My bottom lip might quiver. My hands will be all sweaty and I’ll want to run, run, run as fast as I can, even though I’m not that ginger bread man. I’ll take that deep breath that every sinner takes before speaking his peace and trying to make things right.
And I’ll tell you—all of you—my lie.
I’ve told everyone I’m a writer. In truth, I’m not.
After that, things will pour out, like they do for folks with things on their minds.
I’m a hack. Always have been. Always will be. I write stories and I try to get them published and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t and I can’t decide on one style and I can’t decide if I want to continue in this business or get out and let my name fade away and…
And you’ll listen, because that’s what the person on the other side of the booth does. He/she listens and when I am done you’ll speak, maybe kindly, maybe not. I don’t know.
All those things doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a writer.
I’ll chuckle. Isn’t that what they do as they sit in disbelief of what the priest has said?
Oh, but they do. They do. And I’ll dab my eyes, by George. I’ll dab my eyes as if tears were about to fall and I didn’t want them to.
Why do you say that?
I’ll want to run and I’ll want to just say, tell me what penance I must pay and let me be on my way. Oh, please, can’t it just be that easy?
You’ll wait, not prodding me with the question again, but patiently listening for my answer. And I will relent.
Because I don’t write stories.
Does someone else write them for you?
No, I’ll say and it will be the truth. No one else writes them for me.
So, then you are a writer.
I’ll shake my head and want to punch a hole in the wall between us and strangle you all. I’m struggling with this. Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that it was so hard for me to come here, where the voices of the writers who came before me echo off the walls and sing their praises to the written word? Can’t you see that Poe and Dickens and Hemingway and Perkins and King—yes, King—and Salinger and
Tolkien and… and… they’re everywhere and they’re in my head and can’t you just see that?
But, they all could write, I’ll whisper, hoping my voice doesn’t crack and maybe not hoping that you won’t hear the sadness there. All I know how to do is tell stories…
Silence will fill the booth again. Then you will speak. I hope. Don’t writers tell stories?
Then you are a writer.
And I further rebut this claim. No. Sure, writers tell stories, but not all of them are storytellers. And sure storytellers, well, they tell stories, but not all of them write.
To that you asks the obvious: Which one are you?
I’ll shrug, because that’s what I do when I’m frustrated and sad and at the end of my rope.
I’m just a storyteller. That’s all I am. I can’t write stories the way the greats did. I can’t even do it the way the folks do in this day and age. I don’t adhere to the rules. I’m longwinded and sometimes wordy. I don’t write what everyone wants me to write—I tell the stories that want me to tell them. I paint pictures, for crying out loud. I like to get into the heart of my character. Readers don’t have time for that these days…
You’ll interrupt because the last line I spoke seems absurd to you—just as it seems absurd to me.
Readers don’t have time for that?
What do I say next?
We live in a fast food world. We live in a society that wants your way, right away. We live in a time when no one has time for anything anymore, so something has to get cut out and often times that’s reading. When those people finally do read, they want something just long enough to fill the space of the little time they have open before the next thing on the agenda pops up.
I can no longer give them the quick story. I can no longer please the editors. It’s true. I have the rejection slips to prove it.
Then you say what I didn’t come here to hear: Maybe you shouldn’t call yourself a writer, then.
A deep breath will be taken and I’ll feel it rattle in my chest.
Maybe, you should just call yourself a Story Teller.
It will be a few minutes before I say anything else and you wonder if I’m still even here. I am. I’ll give you a thank you and step from the booth. You might even get up from your little seat and leave your side just in time to see me leave the cathedral. You never got to tell me my penance and I’ll never know what that may be.
I’ll step outside into the chilly evening air and the wind will blow just a little harder than it did before I came. The conversation will play over and over in my head, the words of the people—of you, the readers—dancing in my head.
Maybe you should just call yourself a Story Teller.
And maybe I should just stop lying to myself…
Maybe I should put the ideas and thoughts and storylines in boxes and put them down in the basement of my mind where the rats and snakes and spiders and yucky roaches live. Maybe I should just pack it in.
Or maybe I can just say I’m a Story Teller and do what I’ve always done: tell stories without concern of them being all action all the time; without concern of word count; without concern of my fellow writers liking the work; without the worry of submitting to various publications. Maybe… just maybe, I should turn this Word file off and leave it off…
I’ll turn the corner and the words will be there, right in front of me, etched in my soul forever. I’ll breathe in the cool air and let it fill my lungs like only the cold can.
At home I’ll type this piece, my thoughts laid out before me and you and anyone else to see. Or maybe, I’ll just turn the Word file off. It’s as easy as a click in the upper right hand corner… X marks the spot.
The cursor will blink and I’ll stare at it long and hard…
Then I’ll type the last two sentences and, for now, I’ll leave it at that…
My name is AJ and I’m not a writer. I’m a Story Teller and I’d love to tell you a story or two…