I’m a storyteller.
I’m sure you have some idea of what that means. You think it means I sit at the computer putting words into a certain order. It doesn’t. I’m sitting there, but I’m not really there. I’m somewhere else. I’m everywhere else.
I’m clutching a stolen gun, my hands shaking so badly the bullet goes wide. I’m lying on the floor, staring in shock at my killer, life leaking slowly out of me. I’m watching the man I love drive off with another woman. I’m trying not to look back through the windscreen at my lover’s wife, trying not to hear her call his name or wonder whether one day I’ll be in her place. I’m flying, and swimming, and gasping, and laughing.
I often hear it said that stories are a way to escape reality. How do you escape a world that lives in your blood, that fills your head and makes your fingers tingle? When I write I’m not just putting words on paper. It’s not intellectual. It’s spiritual. I don’t think. I feel. The thinking comes afterwards. I become everyone who has ever loved beyond all reason, who has ever known loss, or fear, or anticipation, or joy. I become every person that has ever lived and every person that ever will.
Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel, and I can’t find the words. Sometimes I see things that don’t quite exist yet, shapes and shadows that twist into tangible threads that find their way to my keyboard. I have felt emotions so far beyond me I thought I would break. There were times I had to stop writing because I was too scared to go on. There were times it hurt too much, times I needed to fall on the floor and cry until the ache in my chest faded, because I could taste the blood and smell the fear and hear the sirens ringing. There were times I wrote things I could never read again because they were too difficult to relive.
Escape? What escape? A storyteller inhabits her characters. She feels what they feel, learns what they learn, knows what they know. If it looks like I’ve been hit by a train at the end of a long day of work, it’s because I probably have. Over and over and over again.
So please forgive me if I don’t have the energy to be excited about your wonderful news, or if I seem callous, apathetic, detached. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I’ve been caring all day, and I haven’t had time to recover.
Forgive my moodiness, my bad attitude, my sudden lapses into despair. It’s not you. It’s them. The stories. They ask a lot. Too much. They ask me to dig deep, to face the things I’d rather run from. They ask me to see into my soul, and yours, often at the same time. And I can’t refuse, because this is why I’m here.
I’m a storyteller.