Sunday, February 28, 2010

On the Power of Story

This is an edited re-post from my (now almost abandoned) personal blog. I like to remind myself occasionally why I'm doing this.

I write because I believe in the power and magic of Story.

Story has the power to heal, to redeem, to entertain, to educate, to inspire -- and a whole lot of other things, but that is enough. There are millions of individual stories, in endless variations, on archetypal themes. Many of them are fundamentally sacred stories because they reveal certain truths about Life.

Storytellers are shamans, clowns, teachers and preachers, to mention just a few of their roles. In their shamanic role, storytellers create the myths that reveal gods. They tell stories that offer potential explanations for mystery, quell fears and give hope. As clowns/jesters they entertain us, making us laugh when we are sad and reminding us that we are not alone when we feel lost and afraid. Storytellers are
mouthpieces of the gods, humanity's guardians, guides and companions.

Story-making is an act of creation
ex nihilo, like that in the first Chapter of Genesis: God said the words, and Creation happened. Even more on point, in John 1, the Messiah of God is the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." That rings true for me. In my experience, storytellers don't "create" a story. The story emerges from the mists of our subconscious, like the dry land of Genesis emerges from the waters of chaos. Stories, like Creation, exist as potential from all eternity. Creation happens when a creator loves the created thing enough to bring it forth and share it. How many stories are locked forever in the souls of people who don't know they are there or who know the stories are there but refuse to let them go?

For those of us who are blessed/cursed to have been called to be storytellers, sharing our stories is as natural and necessary as breathing. For nearly everyone else, whether they are aware of it or not, receiving stories is also a Life-enhancing, and, therefore, sacred act.

I wouldn't want to push that metaphor too far, but there is a truth in that tortured language whispering to me that I'm not wasting my time when I spend so many hours of every day grappling with words in order to bring forth the stories that have been given to me to share.



  1. I love your philosophical approach. Very motivating to remember when you're sitting at the keyboard trying to make a sentence look vaguely coherent. :)

    As Kerouac said about writers: Remember, you're a genius all the time.

  2. I like that description as well.

    Although I am not a natural and actual storyteller. I'm better at the writing than the reading.

  3. I not a very good story-teller either as in verbally, but I can crank them out on a keyboard. Sometimes it feels as though my imagination is like a fountain: it just won't shut off.

    Kerouac might have been a genius, but I'm just somebody who, as you said, M.J., tries to write semi-coherent prose. I think I'd settle for competence.

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. I think I write because I am obsessed with revealing deep inner truths through simple actions and images. It is hard to remember why I do it at all times though and your post is a good reminder.

  5. Rebecca, you just summed up why I write better than I ever could.

    I'd love to read some of your fiction if you'd like to share it.