There’s something so intoxicating about a story in my head. A new story, with new characters taking on lives of their own within my thoughts. For days, sometimes weeks, it’s all I think about in quiet moments. It’s such a sweet and wondrous feeling to imagine the people and all that happens, to feel what they feel and be able to picture it perfectly in my head. It’s such a special privilege to see how they grow and change, to be with them in moments of strength and brokenness, triumph and tragedy.
For some stories, that’s only the first step, and what comes after is far more wondrous: taking those feelings, those pictures and disjointed scenes, and putting them onto paper. Seeing the story come to life in the words in front of me. Being able to share the story and the characters with everyone who reads it…but that’s not for all stories.
Some stories I don’t think are meant to be written down. It would ruin them, somehow. Some of the stories in my head are too precious and personal to share, and others I know I could never convey the depth of in a book. At least, not at my current skill. And, selfishly, I don’t want to fight to find the words and have to leave some of the story behind. Something would be lost in translation…and it would be too much. The intoxication would fade, the mystery and adventure would be for others and not for me. And I know that’s what writing is about, but there remain some characters, some personas I’ve taken on in my mind, that I don’t want to give up. I want them to be there, waiting for me when I need comfort or something to awaken my mind. I want it to fade into the back of my memory, shelved in some secret nook only to be rediscovered months or even years later. I want to feel the enchantment reawaken as I remember everything I’d imagined and spend lovely hours dreaming up even more.
So. I will always have that imaginary library in my mind with bookshelf after towering bookshelf filled with stories just waiting to be shared. And one after another I will take the books down, flip through the pages, and translate it into the language of the outside world. I will fight for the words; I will spend hour after hour searching for ways to convey all that the story holds. I will give up the mystery and adventure so that others might feel it. I will let the characters develop and thus relinquish the secret personas and cherished friends. I will pour it out of my mind and onto the page, to the point where to remember everything requires reading the words that I’ve written. That is the task of a storyteller. That is what I am called to.
But. There will always be that faraway corner of the library, the one with the large window and worn chair perfect for relaxing in. There will always be that modest bookshelf hidden in the corner, nearly lost among the bold and bright books all around the room. And there will always be times when I bypass the other shelves, when I kneel before the tattered covers and half-filled pages. When I choose one to pull from the shelf, and as I lean back and flip through the pages it all comes back to me: the laughs, the tears, the adventure…the story will come back, and with it that little whisper telling me to follow where it leads. And like any child led by wonder and imagination, I will listen. I will dream and fantasize. I will stare out the car window watching the world pass by while my mind wanders through ancient lands surrounded by faces as strange and familiar as when I first saw them. Free from the limits placed on me in the real world, I will live their story with all the joy and pain that comes with it. For that is the privilege of a dreamer…and I will forever be a dreamer.
But when I am finished, when I am ready to leave my escape, I will replace the worn book and go back to the brighter shelves filled with promise. Another book will come down, another story will be told, and I will remember why I love writing. There may even be a time when the tattered books change shelves, when their story has been my comfort for long enough that I’m ready to let it go, to give it wings and let it fly to other hearts in need of such friends.
For a time the corner will be abandoned, but not forgotten. The secret stories will wait. They will be ready to excite or comfort me when I need it most. They will be there to refresh my imagination when writer’s block and the press of time wear me down. And when I come back to them, I will experience that same intoxication, that same need to feel everything they do. I will return to the land of my fantasies, to that secret realm that was my companion long before I wrote anything down.