Halloween has passed. Yet again, I must wait another 364 days for my favorite day of the year. Though I love Halloween, it has become a symbol of remembrance and sadness as well.
On Halloween night in 1995, a teenager in my hometown was murdered and set on fire. He was a good friend of my (soon to be, but as of that moment, not yet) wife. It was tragic. I wrote about it here, on Type AJ Negative a couple years ago in a six part series I titled, Closing the Wound. (Links will be provided at the end of this piece if you would like to read that series.)
Halloween 2013 brought the funeral of a giant of a man in my state, one who I knew and worked for. I will not give his name, but if you live in South Carolina you probably know who he was.
I went to the funeral of Mr. G (Mr. Giant is what I will call him, Mr. G for short). It was a packed house with overflow rooms with video feeds set up for those who couldn’t get inside the church’ sanctuary. The service was nice, very organized and what memorial services tend to be.
However, the rector was a woman who gave a seven or eight minute message. It wasn’t your typical message of ‘get saved while you can,’ but more geared toward what Mr. G really was, what he was about. I believe they could have taken the rest of the service away and have only her message and it still would have been an amazing memorial. She was that good.
This woman said a couple things that stood out to me. One of them I will write about later. The other one, I want to share with you now. I’m modifying it just a little, but keeping the content of what she said.
“Mr. G showed us what faith looks like when it is lived out in something bigger than ourselves.”
The rector clearly meant Mr. G’s faith in God and in doing what he thought was right. I’ve thought and thought about this for the last day since hearing her words. I think the words that have stuck with me here are ‘bigger than ourselves.’
As I’ve thought and thought and thought and thought some more, I’ve come to realize that life, in and of itself, is bigger than all of us. Life–what it really, truly is–is so much bigger than the lives we lead.
We are mundane. We go through the same tasks over and over, day in and day out. Often times we don’t even try all that hard to accomplish what we want to, or to do what others may ask of us. We waste so much time worrying about stuff that is out of our hands, out of our control. We let a lot of our life slip by.
Are we truly living? Are we truly enjoying the gift we have been given?
That’s up to you to decide. For me, I can say no. And that’s my fault. Have I chased my dream of being a successful writer as hard as I should? No. Not even close. Why is that? Fear, most likely. Fear of failure, but also fear of success (which I’ve stated in other posts).
But wait, there is something else. It’s not just fear. It’s laziness; it’s not wanting to do the extra work, beyond writing the stories. Writers have to do more these days to get ahead. They have to market their work and themselves. They have to socialize and be accessible to fans and other writers. They have to be giving of their time, something they feel is better spent writing. It’s a lot of work, and a lazy writer won’t make it very far in this business.
But guess what, Dear Readers. We writers have it all wrong. You see, writing is just that: writing. There’s nothing special about it. Sure, a writer can put together a few words to make sentences sound nice, but we have it all wrong. We’re even calling ourselves the wrong thing.
For years I have said I am not a writer. I’ve meant it every time I have said it. Let me repeat that:
I am not a writer.
I will never be a writer. I am a story teller. I’ve said it before, and will say it again. I am a story teller.
As I’ve sat and thought about writing, I realized a huge chunk of the problem with the writing world is everyone is trying to be writers, but so few are trying to be story tellers.
Think about all the stories you heard growing up. Think about the way they were told. If they were told the way my grandfather told stories, then you had a picture painted for you. You could feel the cold or heat of the day. You could feel the stomach cramps if he said the character was sick. You could smell a fire burning. You could hear the whispers or yells, and you could see someone’s mannerisms and movements. The story wasn’t just about getting from point A to point B. For my grandfather, the story was about starting at point A, going to point B and ending up at point Z when all was said and done.
Sure, his stories had action, but when he told me one, he told it with a purpose. There was always a reason to it. There were always characters and scenery, no matter how short the story. He made you feel his words.
My grandfather didn’t write the first story. He wasn’t a writer. He was a story teller. I’ve always thought that he would have sold many, many books if he would have written even just one.
But he wasn’t a writer. No, he wasn’t a writer at all. (Though he did write a lot of sermons, but that’s for a different day.) He was a story teller.
And this is what is bigger than we writers. Story telling…story telling is so much bigger than any writer out there.
I’ve always said I’m a story teller, not a writer. But I’ve been lazy about the business of writing—and it is a business, no matter which way you look at it. I’ve been lazy about putting my work out there. Sure, I have short story collections. Sure, I have a zombie series. Sure, I have well over 150 publications to my name. But I have failed miserably about marketing my work, about letting people know, ‘hey, I’ve been published.’
What good is being published if you don’t advertise it?
Story telling is bigger than us, and we have to treat it as such. It is bigger than the writer who pens the story. Words are just words when they are written with no passion, with no fire.
Sadly, marketing is often bigger than us as well. It has been for me. But, really, that post is also for another day.
For now, I sit back and think about some of the great storytellers of the past, about the way they wrote the words that told the stories, about how when one of their books are read, you can see and feel and hear and touch and taste it. That’s what I want to do.
I am not a writer.
I am a story teller.
Until we meet again, my friends…
As promised above, I will leave you with the links to Closing the Wound.