I don’t think I’ve always been a writer, but I know I have always been a storyteller. Looking back, I can easily see where and when I started writing, but it’s tricky to think of where I started to love stories. I don’t think it ever started, actually. I think it has always just been a part of me and my need for creativity. In elementary school I took the Timpanogos storytelling festival very seriously (I was totally the queen of the storytelling festival ;)). I practiced and practiced the story I was going to tell, planning the actions, the sound of my voice, and the pauses–even where I would breathe–to perfection. I loved the thrill of standing in front of an audience and making them laugh, taking them to a different world for precisely three minutes when I was allowed a microphone and spectators. I loved stepping into the shoes of characters and giving them personality. I wasn’t a writer of stories, but I was a performer of them. I participated in plays, becoming the characters that I brought to life, stepping inside their stories, speaking their words and singing their songs. And I loved it.
When I look back on this, I wonder what changed. I still don’t know exactly why, but I stopped performing stories. I became shy in middle school. I was quiet and reserved. It stemmed from some super strong case of the self-consciousness that every tween faces. I stood in front of a crowd and I blushed. Like, so red that the boy I had a crush on in my sixth grade class pointed out my blushing in these words: Woahhh. Red. Embarrassing and traumatizing to an already insecure girl, right?? I could hardly read a paper in front of my classmates without shaking hands, and a racing heart, and I never lifted my eyes. I forgot about stories. I was too scared to chase them because at that point, it meant standing up and performing in front of my peers.
A few years went by this way, and the only way I experienced stories was through movies and books. It was like I was outside a room looking in through a small window or hovering over a chocolate fountain but never dipping that strawberry. (weird example, but made sense in my brain)
In high school, I was still shy. I’m still shy now, though some of my close friends and family will disagree. I just wasn’t a performer of stories anymore. But I learned through amazing teachers that I enjoyed writing creatively. I started to love the thrill of sitting in front of a keyboard, thinking of ways to make readers laugh, to take them to a different world for a certain number of words. I started to love stepping into the shoes of characters and exploring their personalities, letting them guide the story, watching their lives unfold. It was a mystery to me what they would say next and what scene would link to the next and get me to the end. I found my place in storytelling again–a place where it’s okay to be quiet and where you don’t need spectators, but readers. It’s a lot less vulnerable when you can hit the backspace button any time you want.
Whether I was performing stories or writing them, I think I’ve always had that desire to be a storyteller. But since I began writing, I see the world through a different lens. Everything is a potential plot–the story my professor tells about a chapter of history, the image of a guy riding a lawnmower past me on the sidewalk, the old lady standing alone on the corner of the street in a puffy coat. I find myself jotting down threads of dialogue that run through my brain and racing to write down a simile, metaphor, or beautiful thought that crosses my mind before I forget it.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to performing stories; right now I’m comfortable here at my keyboard. All those performances were other people’s stories, still lovely and entertaining, but there is something different about creating your own story. A story that has never existed before–that can’t exist unless you create it because no one else is capable of creating the exact same one.
Isn’t that a fun thought?