“The Healer and the Storyteller.” That was the name of the first short story I ever got published. Mind you, it was in a small press fantasy mag, and I didn’t get paid anything except a few author’s copies. But it was accepted by editors, and it was published. And it may have even been read by a handful of people who were not friends or family. That was an important milestone in my writing career. If I may be so bold as to call what I’ve had so far a writing career. And it happened well over two decades ago.
Now, cut to present day. One professional children’s short nonfiction sale and one professional short fiction sale later, here I am. That’s right, just one each. Oddly enough, both of those sales, for which I actually got paid a little money, also happened over two decades ago.
Obviously, a lot of life has happened to me in the meantime, and overall not much writing. Throw in several jobs, more college, a couple of careers, several dozen more editor and agent rejections, a marriage, and a smattering of health problems, and I can pretend to have some good excuses for not getting much written, especially over the last dozen years. But we all know that there really isn’t any excuse that’s good enough. Either you write or you don’t, no matter how hard it is or how little time you have. Successful writers don’t miraculously have more time than I do. They just chose to use more of it to write.
So the last few years, for a number of reasons I may eventually get into here, I’ve sort of been rebooting my life. And strangely enough, after being largely absent for years, my desire to write began to reappear, like something coalescing out of the mist. With the help of a couple of great friends who’d been prodding me for years, I recently began to rework my first novel from some eighteen or so years ago. I think I can add some beneficial stuff to the story and get rid of some clumsy stuff. I even think I can sell it this time around. That’s saying a lot for someone recovering from severe clinical depression.
That brings me back to the start of this piece in a kind of self-congratulatory, full-circle prose-y sort of way. The last couple of days I’ve thought off and on about that first story I got published. I haven’t even reread it since right after publication, twenty-some years ago. Then it struck me tonight. The Healer and the Storyteller. Maybe that’s at the heart of my desire to write. Maybe I yearn to be able to help heal others in some intangible but important way with my storytelling the same way I know my storytelling helps heal me. It’s an irony, during times in my life when I happened to be more focused on outward success and pleasing others, I spent less and less time writing, and eventually even lost the desire. Now I’m not trying to claim a connection where there may be none, but in my case, my life eventually declined and turned to chaos. But then hold a brutal mirror in front of me, and throw in family and friends for support, and make me start focusing on healing myself. Viola, I’m writing again (okay, so the viola took a couple of years). And I’m experiencing its healing effects. And I’m even thinking I want to help heal others in some way with my storytelling, too.
The Healer and the Storyteller. That’s me. You know that circular prose kind of thing I was talking about before? I’m feeling like I’m experiencing a circular life kind of thing at the moment.
Maybe one of these days I should dig out that story and reread it. I’m sure I’ll see how far I’ve come with my storytelling. But maybe I’ll also see just how far I’ve gone back.