I got my hair cut today. My hairdresser Nicole is a sweet lady, and prettier than she thinks. Like a great bartender, she knows how to carry on with her clients. We chatter while she attempts to make my mane even, which isn't often easy. She thinks I need short, short hair. I love feeling the weight. Anyway, the visit is enjoyable.
This time, she said THE words: "If I had time, I'd write this book I've had in my mind for a long time."
I smile and listen. She elaborates. It's a children's tale about Bomber Island in our local Lake Murray (my lake) where Purple Martins migrate each year. You can still find ammo shells on that island, that was used by the Doolittle Raiders in WWII. We have boat cruises as well as personal pontoon ventures each night during the month-long event, loaded with birdwatchers and locals who watch hundreds of thousands of these birds swoop and dance in sync as they settle for each night. It's gorgeous. I won't give her story away, but it's very smart. Also:
- My friend at Edisto Beach has a story to tell about marital trials, and they are definitely unique.
- My high school English teacher has a true crime story to tell that would chill your bones.
- A saleslady in Dillards went on about her legal battle, so anxious to tell others about loopholes in the system.
- My neighbor is 80, a self-made man who's quite accomplished. His biography is intriguing, and he's trying to find a way to write it.
The list is endless. So many people have remarkable stories, stories that stay in their heads and aren't getting on the paper. Some ask me to write them, the line normally: "When you finish your current book, I have the next one you need to write."
I do not discount their stories. Most are phenomenal, and to those people these stories are important. However, somewhere in their enthusiasm, when they've paused to take a breath, I say: "That's your story to tell, not mine."
That makes them pause. I've respected their story. They've respected my writing ability by asking me to take up their torch. We've made each other happy. The truth is, however, they hold the passion, not me.
A high percentage of these tales (I'd even venture to guess ninety-plus percent) will never be recorded. That saddens me. These stories don't have to be bestsellers. They don't even have to land on bookstore shelves, but these ideas and experiences evaporate as time creeps on, locked in one mind and gone as that life joins others past. Those ideas and experiences vanished for all time.
If you have a story, write it. Leave your mark.
Make copies and pass them around at Christmas. Post them on your blog. Self-publish if this is a story you want remembered as part your legacy. There's the traditional publishing path via agents and publishers if you're game to understanding the business.
You can be a storyteller without becoming a professional writer. Sure, you can try to publish it for sales, and how glorious if you can sell it and earn a living, but do not lose the opportunity to record your story. Take the effort. Weave the words. Tell the tale.
Frankly, only then will you be able to tell whether writing is your passion, or if this story just needed exorcizing from your mind. Either way, you'll have told the story.