I’ve come to find out, writing in itself, is nothing more than storytelling. A fairly straightforward concept I know, but that’s the reality of it. So the first prerequisite to becoming a writer is to simply be a storyteller. And at least that part I have down. I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember, and not just the lying type of storyteller. That doesn’t count.
My earliest memory of storytelling goes back to maybe the third or fourth grade. For some reason, the teacher gave me free time to do as I chose (only God knows what she was thinking) and I, being the studious young man that I was, decided that to write a story. A comic book actually. And I did. I wrote a captivating tale about a villain with a skull for a head and buzz-saw hands. (Yes, two buzz-saw hands!) I even animated it. I drew characters inside little storyboard panels between the margins of yellow sheeted notebook paper pulled from those old legal pads that use to come with actual yellow paper. Then I stapled them together along the edges so it really opened and read like a book. It was amazing, and I was quite proud of myself. I showed my book about the Buzz-Saw handed maniac to my teacher and she was so… soooo… well I don’t know what she was, but I guess “impressed” is the best word to describe it. (Surprised, confused and or bewildered would have also worked) She was so “impressed” in fact, that she had me read my story to the entire class. I got to sit up in the front of the class, you know, like it was story time and the class sat around me and I read my little story to them. I would look up between horribly formed sentences and terribly drawn doodles and see eyes wide with excitement, waiting, in eager anticipation to hear what happened next.
I remember distinctly at the end of the story the Villain or Anti-Hero being violently kicked out of a window and falling tragically to his death, or perhaps not actual death. There may have been one last panel showing where the villian’s body should have been but instead revealed that he was not there. I can’t remember if I was already planning a sequel or not, but you get the point. Skull Head-Buzz-Saw Hands goes out the window and my story ends. Afterwards the little handmade comic book goes into the unknown void that was my desk, never to be seen again.
That is, until nearly the last week of school.
Everyone is cleaning out their desk and cubbies in preparation for summer vacation and I pull out this crumpled little yellow comic book and, in retrospect quite foolishly, announced to the class that it was up for grabs. Then flung it carelessly into the center of the room. I suppose, I was half expecting that no one would be interested in a homemade comic book and it would go into the trash with everything else we had stuffed into our desk over the course of a school year. However, much to my surprise, my classmates jumped on the crumpled little comic like a pack of hyena pups on a gazelle leg, and with so much fervor and enthusiasm, ripped the book into an indefinite number of little pieces.
You know when at a concert when a famous performer throws out like a handkerchief or scarf or something and it goes into the crowd and there is like this semi-violent scuffle where the fans are fighting over ownership of this item and they end up tearing it to shreds. It was like that.
Now the book was already in rough shape, and now in pieces it was in even rougher shape, but every kid who came out with a piece was glad to have it, they beamed with pride and for the life of me I could not understand why.
And that was it, the book was gone and the story was now in the possession of 5 different kids in 10 different pieces, unreadable by any of them, but owned and remembered by all of them. And for a brief moment, in the fourth grade, I was a storyteller in the purest form. I guess even now that’s the feeling I chase every time I write, to simply tell a story I love and hope that someone else will love it too.
Sometimes I wish I would have kept that little handmade comic book, but I’ve come to realize that, that’s what stories are for. Not necessarily for the storyteller, but for the tell-ee or the audience, or the reader or whatever the case may be. Once you tell your story, once you get your story out, it’s no longer belongs to you alone, but it then belongs to everyone who loves it, and I think I like that.