What’s your favourite story? Who is it written by? Maybe it’s the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling? Or maybe you’re more of a Tolkien fan. Perhaps magic and fantasy isn’t your realm so much as science fiction and Ridley Scott is more your style. Or maybe you like the film adaptations better? Is Firefly more up your alley? The Walking Dead? Maybe it’s child, Fear the Walking Dead? Or perhaps you’re partial to stories like Aesop’s Fables and the fairy tales you’ve heard in school or from your own culture. Irrespective, stories are an integral part of our culture and our history. After all, it’s only been recently in human history we taught our history through written text. Prior to that, it was all passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation like heirlooms, sewing by thread and needle into the intricate fabric of culture the stories of our history and the things we treasure. In the modern day, things work a little differently, of course. Although it’s still tradition for the youngest of our peoples to gather at the feet of our elders when we gather over the holidays to hear stories of the family and the world we exist in, only a handful of these stories get shared past what the word of mouth can take it. Publishing, film, and media companies have long held the power to decide which stories to tell. In each one of these companies are a small group of individuals who read over every submission thrown their way and make the executive decision as to which stories are worth telling, worth spending money on producing, and profitable. Of my trip to Hollywood two or three years ago, what sticks with me most to this day is a room at Warner Brothers where the company stacked every script pitched in a year into a corner and beside it, the fraction of scripts that made it to production. So many stories are left untold, determined unprofitable, left to gather dust. Even J.K. Rowling pitched her story numerous times, being rejected over and over again. Now, looking at the cultural influence Harry Potter has had, would anyone dare say that her story wasn’t worth telling?
Quite frankly, few of us will ever reach the heights the likes of Rowling and Orwell will, but that doesn’t mean our stories aren’t worth telling. For so long, it wasn’t publishing companies who told our stories, it was our grandparents, our community elders, our friends, and the people who took in these stories weren’t bookworms at the local library, it was you, your peers, the people you could reach with a quick message, a tap on the shoulder. Every story is worth telling, whether it’s a story about your experiences, the experiences of another, a fable to warn of folly, or just a short for the sake of having fun. Every story tells our history, informs those to come, and makes the world just a little more colourful.
What’s your favourite story? Do you remember what you felt when you finally found that character you connected to so deeply? Or when the protagonist encountered a challenge you’ve been fighting with for so long and you don’t feel alone anymore? Or when after indescribable hardships, the crew makes it through as better people than when they came in? Stories change lives, they show people they aren’t alone. Stories tell us what is important to us and what scares us. It reminds us that our humanity is precious, our decision-making important, our experiences vital to our character, and our empathy the core of our being.
In 2014, To Write Love On Her Arm’s slogan for Suicide Prevention Week was “No One Else Can Play My Part”. The suicide prevention organisation focused on the telling of the story life paints for us, written by none other than the one living the life. They stressed that no one else could write your story, that no one else could tell your story like you could, that your story could reach people that other stories simply could not. After all, not everyone likes magic and fantasy, some prefer science fiction and space cowboys. Each of us has been blessed with a voice, a platform to speak out of, a way to tell our stories. We are the storytellers at the fire, the great orators who stood market corners delivering rousing speeches, the weird grandparents at family gatherings with a twinkle in our eyes and a thousand stories that spill from cracked lips that bring life back to sullen eyes. There will always be people who decide that your story isn’t profitable, that it isn’t worth their time and money, that it isn’t worth telling. The truth is that your story is worth telling. It’s worth writing, worth telling, worth writing down and sharing with anyone who will listen. Your story might not reach as many people as Harry Potter does, but your story might just reach the people that Harry Potter doesn’t and touch those hearts in a way nothing else could.
Go forth, storyteller. Share your tales, your heroics, your failures, your experiences. There’s an adventurer out there who desperately needs your guidance, a Frodo who will be inspired by your Bilbo-esque adventures, someone who thought they were alone in their struggles. Your stories and their words have power and you have the ability to use them to make a difference. Tell your story.
Story submitted by Rae.