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You Don't Have To Be An Author To Write

You Don’t Have To Be An Author To Write

Not everyone who writes is an author. You don’t have to be an author, a graduate of journalism school, or have other “authentication” conferred on you to validate your writing…and your “writing” doesn’t necessarily have to be written. Surely you have heard of “the oral tradition”—TELLING stories.

When I was a kid, my parents were friends with a couple who had two very young children. These friends used to put their little boys to bed every night with a bedtime story, but these were not tales of Cinderella or Robin Hood or any other character who ever appeared in a book by Andersen, Grimm, or any other famous author. The heroes of these stories were invented by these parents, as were the ongoing tales of their exploits. One of the characters, I recall, was a pilot named Harry Heli d’Copter. The storytelling couple were in no other way writers. I don’t know that they ever wrote so much as a letter to the editor of the newspaper. But they made up stories to entertain their two little sons.

The oral tradition is rich with examples. Take campfire stories. Cowboys, miners, and others used to gather around campfires and spin original yarns. These tale-tellers weren’t published, didn’t consider themselves authors, but they entertained their friends and fellows gathered around the fire by making up stories on the spot.

And speaking of stories told around a campfire, how about ghost stories? Those, too, were mostly invented by people who never took a writing course, seldom set pen to paper to capture their stories for posterity, but enjoyed entertaining their friends.

The pantheon of examples of the oral tradition wouldn’t be complete without tall tales, either. Yes, some of them eventually did get printed. I remember as a child borrowing library books with tales of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. But long before these stories saw the light of print, they were told, re-told, and embellished upon by oral storytellers with no thought of fame, of earning royalties, or of calling themselves “authors.”

You may argue that these people were writers because they wrote, ergo, de facto, they were writers, or authors. You may so argue, and you might even have a point…but so do I, and my point is that they were NOT published authors or trying-to-get-published authors or wannabe authors or anything of the sort. They were just people who enjoyed spinning a good yarn.

Why don’t you join their ranks and make up a story or two yourself? If you don’t have small kids (or grandkids or godchildren or nieces and nephews), go volunteer to tell stories at a daycare center or library—or host a gathering of friends at which the entertainment is everyone making up a story.

It’s fun!

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