Friday, May 17, 2013

Storytellers Are People, Too

I stumbled into the blogging community around the time that "story" was all the rage.
And I loved it! Still do!
And then I watched as people started picking it apart, bit by bit.
The people with the influence. The clout.
They said things like, "This story isn't yours to tell." "You don't have the right to describe your children's lives because they might see it differently someday. You can't tell it for them." Or "You guys took this thing too far and forgot that "story" was about telling, not about using," etc. (That's my take-away as I perceived it; none are actual quotes. And I'm not saying the points are invalid, just intimidating.)
This was a sad, sad turn, from my observation. 
Suddenly, story paranoia developed across the blogosphere. 
Bloggers started examining themselves like I used to do before communion, "Oh, gosh! there must be something horrible I've done that I need to remember so I can confess and do this thing worthily!"

The wrong people were effectively silenced and the unnamed targets of critique continued with life as usual, as far as I can tell, without being given specifics. Instead readers were all lumped into a group, like a sullen classroom of fifth-graders who don't recall anyone doing what they were accused of. So of course they all got punished.
Here's what I want to tell all these lovely, now-quiet storytellers.
You matter.
Your voice matters.
And your favorite writers, the people who influence and inspire you? Yeah. See? They don't get to make the rules!!!! 
(And thank God for that!)
So please, friends, please:
Go and write what's on your heart. Write that tribute to your loved one, with photos galore! Tell us those funny, endearing things your kids do and say! They will be the ones begging you for the memories. "Tell me again, Mom, how I did that thing when I was that age," etc. You have a gift and a love and an incredible opportunity to share your heart with others. Don't waste it because someone made you afraid you would do it "wrong."
Be seasoned with grace, in all the words you lay out for the world. That is my plea. It's not a rule that you have to follow. It's a guideline to help us maintain integrity. 
Respect the people you write about. If it's a family member, talk with them about it before publishing. If it's a friend, ask their permission. If it's an acquaintance or even a stranger, have the goodness not to name specific names or snap photos of their faces (without permission.) Sure, it's a little extra "trouble" but there is usually a bonding that happens through the necessary communication. That alone makes it more than worthwhile.
But you know what? Don't let these guidelines become impossible obstacles. Don't let the well-intentioned critics become your naysayers. Don't compromise your message because you may get stoned for it by the "nice" people.
We're all human, didya know?
We are capable of doing and saying awful things to each other.
We are also capable of apologizing and making restitution.
We might even be capable of rational, reasonable discourse together.
It's ok if you don't get it all right the first time. It's ok if you change your mind and let people know graciously why you came to your conclusions. 
Don't let the silence win.
Silence now will be void later when you try to recall the important things you neglected to write about because of the fear of being shamed.

Bold is the energizing word.

Be bold, and beautiful, and for goodness' sake, please share your messages and tell your stories!


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