November 17, 2017

On the Profit of Storytelling


I have had moments over the past couple of months when I've wondered why I post stories here for free instead of collecting them in a book to sell. I don't really wonder for long. There's such a difference between writing a story for a weblog and one for a book. The stories I put here are little wild things. Mostly they take a few minutes to write and I barely edit them. They are roadside flowers rather than roses; they are thoughts spun into tales instead of essays. Because of this, there is a joy in writing them, a freedom that allows me to simply have fun with storytelling, rather than labouring over the craft of it. 

One of the stories has for some reason inexplicable to me become quite popular, and been read in the past couple of weeks by perhaps as many people as would buy a published storybook in a year. That's lovely, but honestly not as lovely receiving letters from people telling me how my stories, books, or poems have affected them. I even had a request from a school to use my work in their senior class. Please, please don't think I tell you this to boast, I only want to explain the fulfillment it brings me, the peace and happiness, the sense of purpose. Some days when I am out in the world and it's all very hard, there are people in suits and high heeled shoes striding past, talking on phones, doing important things, and I'm feeling small and useless and wishing I'd just stayed at home, a quiet voice inside my heart will remind me that a story I wrote meant something to someone, and that gives me such strength.

It's hard sharing all that, especially as a shy person, because it really does sound conceited. I don't meant it to. Obviously, if my writing was really good, I'd be a far bigger name by now. And it's quite rare for one of my blogposts to become very popular. So I have no conceit. Only I thought it would be interesting? honest? helpful? to share a little of how it feels to be a writer whose words are read after a whole lifetime of wishing for that to happen. It seems to me writers seldom talk about these kinds of things. I'm not really in a position where my experience counts as much, but even so, there it is.

I will probably never be famous, or have thousands of followers, or be liked by famous writers, or be in the papers. But none of that is why I write. I write because I am a writer. I think in story. It's never about considering profit or markets or whatever. It's just about being in the world.

illustration by walter crane