Writing to tell stories by Kyle Steffish

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. Some writers like to write because it’s an outlet for their thoughts and emotions. Others write only to communicate. Meanwhile, there are writers who write only for themselves and with no intention of anyone else ever reading their words. Then there are those who write because they are storytellers. This last reason is why I like to write. At least, it’s almost the reason.

While it’s mostly true to say I write because I like telling stories, it isn’t the complete truth. The truth is I’m a storyteller. It’s a simple but important distinction to make. I don’t write because I like to tell stories. I like to tell stories; therefore, I must write. Being a storyteller always comes first. Writing is simply a consequence. Long before I could write, I told stories.

When I was a young child – maybe around four years old – my dad used to bring home large cardboard boxes from work. He would break the boxes down, and then he would cut out and separate each side of the box. The boxes really were large (relative to four-year-old me), so a single side was at least as tall and three times as wide as I was. My dad would give the separated cardboard box sides to me, along with crayons, markers, and colored pencils.

I had toys, too – an entire toy box full. A lot of my toys were Batman action figures (I was – and still am – a fan of the Caped Crusader). I loved playing with them. I also loved drawing scenery on the pieces of cardboard my dad had cut out for me. I’d draw skyscrapers, forests, and magnificent castles. Then I’d use the cardboard scenery as backdrops as I’d play with my action figures.

However, I didn’t just play with my toys and action figures. I told stories with them. There was always a story – always an underlying narrative I had conjured. The cardboard scenery was important, because it gave these stories a setting. Our old brown couch served perfectly as mountains, with cardboard forests sprung up across it.

Heroes would drop in from the sky to save a fallen comrade, only to be struck down themselves. All hope seemed lost. Until, of course, reinforcements arrived and, after a tense, climatic battle, the heroes won. When the dust settled, actions figure causalities laid strewn across the couch and floor.

I know this experience wasn’t unique to me. Most children are imaginative, and most of them are excellent storytellers. In fact, children try exceptionally hard to tell their parents everything they can, as often as they can. Unfortunately, something happens: they grow up. As we grow up, a lot of us lose our imagination and the excitement we had to create and to share what we created with others.

In this respect, I’ve been lucky. While I’m sure I have less than half the imagination of four-year-old me, I’ve hung on to some of it. And I’m still just as excited to create and tell stories now as I was back then. Only now, blank pages have become my pieces of cardboard, and words have become my action figures. Now, I tell stories through writing.