I was pondering the other day and it came to me, as it often does when I’m out walking, that perhaps we, as humans, are built to be storytellers. That it’s in our DNA, some vital part of us that cannot be denied.
From the dawn of humanity when people gathered around campfires or in sacred spaces, taking their turns to add their voice to a tale, we have always shared stories. Before written word it was how we kept records of our ancestors, of our people, of the things that happened, weaving them into songs or epic poems or tales for the dark nights as winter drew in. We painted pictures on cavern walls, blew bright ochre onto rock faces, describing happenings and visitors and successful hunts, religion and family and daily life. Then the paintings became carvings and pictures became words and we kept telling stories, about commerce and battles and dark fantasies from the past, using words to frighten people into submission or to uplift them to their best selves. Bards became a class of their own, keepers of the stories, each one adding their own pieces to the puzzle, carrying our ancestors’ deeds forward in time.
And now, in this modern age, it seems we still have stories to tell. Agents are inundated daily with manuscripts, thousands of writers are, as we speak, working to produce their NaNo novel by the end of the month. Writing clubs and online communities abound, and competition to be published is fiercer than ever. I cannot count the number of people who, when I tell them I’m a writer, say ‘I’d like to write a book as well.’ Apparently in Iceland one in ten people will publish a book and most people will write one – an entire country of people with stories to tell.
So what is it that has caused this apparent upsurge in writers appearing, a generation of storytellers born anew? I wonder if social media has something to do with it, giving us all a voice, a chance to share our life with the world whenever we choose to do so. Every person has a story – now with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and blogging all you need is a phone or a tablet or computer to share it with the whole world. We are encouraged to write every day, to post new statuses, update our stories as they happen, 140 characters to tell of each unfolding event. Small wonder then that this daily writing exercise may have inspired us to do more, awakening the urge to weave a bigger, better, more exciting tale and get it down on paper (so to speak).
Macquarie University scholars have recently deciphered a 1300-year-old Egyptian Spell Book, something which I find completely fascinating.
It made me wonder, in this digital age, whether our words will be around to be deciphered a millennia from now, or if the ephemeral nature of electronic files means they will simply fade away, a forgotten crackle of energy. Personally, I still enjoy holding a real book in my hand and, when I publish, I plan to do so in a format that allows readers to order a paperback as well as the Kindle version. And perhaps some scholar, centuries from now, will hold a copy of it in white gloved hands (or maybe it will hover, unsupported, above a pristine surface) to be read, my words analysed for whatever secrets of this present time they may hold.
Interesting to consider, isn’t it?
Oh, and here’s a little update on my latest story telling efforts:
Yep, hit 50,000 words today! Very happy. Though there’s still work to do to finish this latest novel, I think another 15,000 words at least plus editing and polishing, it’s been a fun story to write and I’ll keep you updated as to how it goes out there in the big bad world of publishing.
Until then, thanks for reading as always xx
Firstly, congrats on finishing NaNo! Secondly, I agree that there is something innate in us that loves stories—hearing or reading or watching them. We also love retelling them, or making them up. I used to love hearing the stories from my parents’ childhoods, and ask for the same ones, over and over again. Even jokes, TV shows, movies, etc., they’re all stories. We need it and love it, don’t we?
Thanks Louise! Yes, I agree, it’s something that is universal as humans, that we like to tell stories of our lives and now social media lets us do so on a daily basis, a modern continuation of an ancient tradition. Hope all your writing is going well 🙂
Evolving with the ability to tell stories gave us religion and the power to predict possible futures and learn from past events. It makes us human.
If all the words on social media are lost, then so are our conversations and thoughts. Do many people write letters anymore? I agree about printing on actual paper, but even then so many of those long rambling letters to friends and family that don’t seem particularly important at the time could be lost in some email databank. On the other hand, if all that twitter and facebook stuff is recorded for evermore, think of the fun historians will have when they read about our silly day to day lives, and perhaps the stuff that ought to have been deleted. Who will be the keepers of this data?
Yes, that’s so true Barbara. And I find the idea of all this data floating around containing the minutiae of our daily lives fascinating – I do wonder whether it will be around in the future for people to look through – no doubt they’ll think we all just sat on our phones all day long! I heard a little while ago that early digital films are already degrading and that made me think about all this written work, blog posts and emails and FB updates, as to whether it will all just fade away. I suppose nothing, even if carved in stone, is eternal, but I still feel that paper has a chance of lasting longer – maybe that’s just the old fashioned bookworm in me 🙂