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Writer, Author, or Storyteller?

 photo via Flickr's AlicePopkorn [1]

photo credit: AlicePopkorn [2]

I am a storyteller.

I play many other roles as well  — wife, mother, sister, daughter. Half-hearted runner. Avid reader. Volunteer. But I was a storyteller before almost anything else.

The form my stories take hasn’t always stayed the same, but the telling part has remained true. When I was little, before I could write, I made up stories for my younger sister at bedtime. As an adult, I worked as a reporter. When my children were young and I was so sleep-deprived I couldn’t string two sentences of my own together, I’d tell them long, elaborate versions of books I knew by heart to settle them down in the car or help them sleep. On my blog, I share snippets of my life — stories about writing or family or growing up or striving toward a goal.

I’m also an author  — I have one book published and am finishing up my next. But I’ve come to realize that for me, the term author is just one more extension of being a storyteller.

It’s easy to forget this.

In the push to be on Facebook, on Twitter, to find new followers on Goodreads and reviewers on Amazon, the storytelling part can be overwhelmed. For me, at least, there are days when I have to shut off the computer, go for a walk, and remind myself to just tell the story. 

[pullquote]But I’ve come to realize that for me, the term author is just one more extension of being a storyteller.[/pullquote]

Sometimes I do exactly that — tell  myself, out loud, what happens next in my novel. Sometimes I take a break entirely and tell a completely different story on my blog — about how a hot air balloon almost landed in our yard and chased our (usually) fearless dog away; about how it feels to take up a new sport at an advanced age; about how fast time is going with my family and how I would do almost anything to stop it. The ‘telling’ part is still there, but the audience is different. Sometimes, the only audience is me.

I read a blog post recently that talked about what it takes to become a successful author. In it, the writer asked if you were willing to kill to get there. It was a great post, but being a successful author isn’t something I’m willing to kill for. (Family, friends, caramel and champagne are more my priorities.) In my twenties, my answer might have been different, but I know what’s really important to me now. And while I would love if every one reading this went over and liked my author page so I would have a billion followers to show my publisher, or went out and bought a copy of my book, the reality is, doing those things won’t change much of the things in my life that really matter.

What matters is living a life that allows me to tell the stories that are important to me, no matter what that format is.  I’m grateful that one of those stories got to take written form, got to be placed in bookstores and in libraries, and I’m working hard to make sure my next book has the same shot.  At the same time, I recognize that I may not always be an author, just as I was not always a reporter or editor.  When I’m 85 and in a rest home, I probably won’t be typing up my life’s memoirs. I’m hopeful, however, that I will be regaling my fat happy grandkids with scores of stories about my scandalous past.

The medium may change, but the storytelling part remains the same, and somehow knowing that makes the ups and downs of the publishing industry easier to deal with.

How about you? Do you see yourself as more of a storyteller or an author, and why?

About Liz Michalski [3]

Liz Michalski's first novel, Evenfall, was published by Berkley Books (Penguin). Liz has been a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs. These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt.