Storytelling is in our blood. Since the dawn of man, human beings have told stories. We've sung around campfires. We've crafted poems, written epics, and we've even passed down knowledge using fiction. Man is a storyteller. Yet why do we write?
You can't eat writing. You can't drink writing or wear writing to keep you warm. It doesn't make good firewood, nor does it keep the rain out of your tent. What's the value in writing?
Writing anything of value is difficult
Because what's truly valuable isn't perfect
When writing a book there are no shortcuts. Even the best writers stumble on outlines, diction, style, grammar, spelling, character ideas, plot cohesion and more. But the best of writers are truly great at just one thing—and it isn't perfect prose. Do you know what it is?
It's capturing the human spirit.
A truly great writer pens what it means to be a person, which is to feel, to dream, to imagine, to suffer, to thrive and to question what it means to be alive.
A truly great writer can write terribly, but if they distill the human experience, their characters will sing, their world will live and their readers will fall in love. Proficiency comes with time, but proficiency isn't valuable on its own.
A truly mediocre writer only witnesses the world and its people, never dabbling in the messy idiosyncrasies that make humans, well, human.
A truly mediocre writer can write perfectly, but without a heartbeat, readers never care because nothing ever truly feels real. That's not greatness.
The biggest gift an author gives a reader isn't perfect prose, it's how a story makes them feel. Gifting feelings is demonstratively difficult and just as priceless as it is challenging.
Why do authors write if it's so hard?
There are many reasons, but only a few intentions
Authors may write to vanquish inner demons, analyze a puzzle, investigate a world they built, see characters like/unlike themselves, explore with love, deal with tragedy, explain society and more.
For some, writing stories is an escape. For others, writing is a challenge. An author's own reason for writing is quite personal, but an author's intentions for sharing their work is communal.
It can never not be, not if they're any good at storytelling.
A truly great writer shares their stories because they have a message made with their heart and their head, and they want to share experiences—good and bad—with others through the gift of language.
Truly great writers spark something in readers. Readers and writers look for that spark, as if knowing each other all at once, for just one moment in time.
A truly mediocre writer shares their stories because they think everyone should favor and flatter their ideas. We've seen these types, as both readers and writers.
Truly mediocre writers only focus inwards, when the act of storytelling requires connecting with your audience, as a human being.
With intention-framing, it's sometimes hard to spot a mediocre writer. Often, they're proficient and successful, but that's when their hand is played. Writing stops being about the communal art of it all and starts being about ego, which is their hidden intent.
There are many different reasons why authors write, but the difference in intentions is what marks the storyteller from the solipsist.
Why do you write and why do you share what you write?
This will tell you what you're made of
There's nothing wrong with writing for yourself. Writing what you love is about sharing a spark with readers, too. Plenty of truly great writers pen stories for themselves in hopes of sharing the journey with others.
That's a truly great, truly human, truly communal thing—isn't it?
So, why do you write and why do you share what you write?
When you can truly answer this question, you'll know which sort of difficult your journey is, why you truly write and if you're capable of being truly great.
The answers live in knowing yourself, not your craft. Time creates proficiency, but time won't make a solipsist into a storyteller. Only seeking human connection does that and not everyone can or even wants to.
I hope for your sake your answers don't point to your navel, because to be quite honest, we've had lifetimes of mediocre solipsists.
I, for one, would like more storytellers. What about you?