So You Wanna Write? Part 2: The Big Difference
April 2, 2014 45 Comments
I stated in my last post that I love storytelling but I hate writing. Think of it this way: I love my loft – it’s cathedral ceilings with floor-to-celing windows, its open living room and dining room – and I love living in it with my wife, daughter, and dachshunds.
But ask me to build one, and that would not appeal to me in the least. The only things that can make me turn my head and run faster are shopping malls, HGTV, and snakes.
However, if I did build a house, I’m sure the rewards of a finished project would be gratifying (just don’t enter through the front door because the roof might collapse on you).
Such as it is with writing. It may seem like a chore to tap endlessly on that keyboard, but the satisfaction of a completed book or chapter (or sentence, in some cases) is very fulfilling. But without a lot of money and a film crew (which most of us don’t have), really writing is the only way to tell stories.
There is a difference between writing and telling stories.
People write notes all the time, and school papers, and cooking instructions. Now, you can be annoying and insist that there’s a story to be found in each one of those elements, but don’t. We don’t live in a Dick and Jane world anymore. A story nowadays has to include characters, depth, emotion, layers, plots, ethos, and much, much more.
This blog post is not a story.
Writing can be tedious (i.e. papers, memos, accident reports), or it can be fun (love letters, to-do lists, list of potential baby names).
And storytelling can be the same way. Some stories are difficult to tell, like post-9/11 articles, or the dangers of kids playing too close to the pool. But more often than not, storytelling is a wonderful adventure.
You’ve read many books by storytellers, but likely very few from writers.
Everyone who writes a book is an author, but very few are writers.
Take John Grisham for example. Back in his glory days, he told great stories, gripping and fast-paced. But if you get down to it, he’s not much of a writer. Not compared to the likes of Dickens or McEwan.
There’s not much symbolism in his novels (nothing wrong with that), nor flourishing sentences that could be elegantly quoted at your next dead poets meeting (nothing wrong with that, either).
Few people can blend the two, most of us are good at one or the other. I’m a storyteller, because I’d rather my readers walk away with an experience rather than a newly-worded thought.
So, decide for yourself what you are. Are you a storyteller or are you a writer?
Figuring this out will ease the road paved before you toward becoming an author.