Writing is one of the oldest and most important skills that humankind has ever developed.
As a specie on this planet it’s enabled us to game Nature’s systems to the point where we’ve become the ultimate overachievers. The ability to accumulate knowledge over the centuries, and even accelerate that accumulation, is supernatural in scope.
And yet we take it for granted.
As other species plod along through evolution, slowly storing up success stories in their DNA, we’ve leapfrogged them in a manner akin to putting on a red cape and hurling ourselves over tall buildings. We can now easily know something that someone else has learned, and yet we have never done.
Think about it.
Here’s a question for you: Do you believe in telepathy?
Mind reading? Think it’s a myth?
No, we do it every day.
Writing is the pure magic act of taking our actual thoughts and encoding them into symbols which, when someone sees them, the writer’s very thoughts are transcribed into the reader’s own mind.
Think it’s not magic? Let’s take a closer look at the process.
Consciousness itself is magical. No one truly understands it, but it happens to us constantly. A writer takes these ethereal, magical objects we call thoughts and assembles them into physical codes. Particles of light carry these codes into our eyes, where they are reassembled back into thoughts.
Seriously, ponder this for a moment. It’s mind blowing when you really realize what’s going on between a writer and a reader.
Now, if that wasn’t amazing enough, here’s an even deeper layer of magic. The thoughts you’re receiving via someone’s writing reach out across time itself.
Long dead ghosts still talk to us through their writing.
Your thoughts that you write can be experienced in the minds of people across vast expanses of time, hundreds or thousands of years later.
Writing is so magical it can even cheat death.
Now let’s talk about story. Story goes hand in hand with the ancient art of writing. It’s even older, going back to the origins of language itself.
But, what is story?
Storytelling is the art of making your thoughts interesting to other people.
Basically, that’s what it is.
It relates the storyteller’s experiences so others can experience them, and learn from them. Stories themselves, like ideas, are living things. They propagate from one person’s mind to another. They evolve. They split and become more than one story. They merge to become a different story. A story that goes from one mind to another is actually a child of the original, because the original still lives in the teller’s mind, and a slightly different version now lives in the listener. The listener then becomes the storyteller, and that story’s children are implanted into the minds of new listeners.
Before written language stories were in constant flux, handed down from one generation to another through oral traditions. Each teller of a tale would either inadvertently, or perhaps purposely, alter the tale to fit the current circumstances. But then came written language, and the art of writing.
This made it possible to make identical copies of a story, and being that early stories carried important information for survival, this was humanity’s secret weapon against Nature herself. It was the Konami code to beat the elements.
And also, of course, it served as pure entertainment.
But the craft of storytelling inherently carries a message, either overtly or subconsciously – whether the writer realizes it or not. And you, as a writer, are that which from the message springs.
So, are you a writer? Do you tell people you’re a writer, or do you say you want to be a writer?
Here, let me tell you something: if you write things, you are a writer.
Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
As writers – all writers – we improve with practice. Practice is in the form of writing. The more you write, the better you get. If you enjoy the act of writing, then you’ve got it made. Just keep doing what you enjoy, and learn as you go.
You don’t need a certificate saying you’re a writer. You don’t need a license. You don’t even need other people’s approval. All you need to do is write, keep writing, and never stop writing.
That makes you a writer.
As a writer, it’s a good idea to practice all sorts of different techniques so that you learn them, and then later make up your own. But then again, writing and storytelling are not like mathematics. There is no one true answer. Two plus two in math always equals four, but in storytelling two plus two can equal five*, just like one plus one can equal eleven.
Ultimately as a writer, you will find your own way.
Just keep writing.
*bonus points if you get that reference