Writers: Don’t stop telling stories

Image: Nick Jio

Maybe you’ve noticed, my last couple posts were more stories than practical advice.

There were a couple reasons for my madness…

For one, it was a yearning to get back to my roots. First and foremost, I’m a writer. I know I happen to write a lot about things of the spiritual/mindful nature. I love my subject matter.

But sometimes, I just want to tell a damn story.

Diving into the beauty and hilarity of the mundane is one of my favorite things to do in this art.

Now, I knew what I was getting into when I did it. Which brings us to the second reason I went with stories — it was a little bit of an experiment (because experiments are awesome).

Sure enough, my theory held true.

I got emails regarding the stories that went something along the lines of, how does this help me? What does this have to do with anything?

Also, my digital high-fives weren’t as many as they usually are. Not as many people read them or recommended them.

Now, if I didn’t know any better, and I wasn’t looking at this as a scientist — I’d get frustrated at the nature of humanity and the internet.

It’d give the following rant:

How did we get so practical as a species? When did we replace fables and tall tales with cut-and-dry practical advice? When did we lose our creative muscle to draw our own conclusions from someone else’s story and, instead, began requiring the 7-step ‘useful’ takeaway for personal enrichment?

And herein lies the point of this post…

As writers, we have to accept something that may be hard to swallow: Stories aren’t the most share-worthy thing online these days.

Now, maybe it’s just because my little whimsical stories weren’t that great. That’s very possible. And they were a little ‘off-brand’ from my usual punchy daily tips. So it probably caught some people off-guard.

But this is a thing. Like, a well-known thing I’ve heard from other writers who write INCREDIBLE stories. This is why we don’t see a heck of a lot of stories on social media (yep, Medium is considered social media).

I wish this wasn’t true. I wish we, as a society, wouldn’t totally drop the imagination for ‘guaranteed’ takeaways. I’d hope we we’d leave some room for wonder and laughter and taking note of the small things in life that bring us joy without us having to ‘JFDI’, ‘hack’, ‘level-up’, ‘hustle’ or whatever hashtag-ridden buzzwords the go-getter achiever-driven society we now live in can shove down our Instagram feeds.

But I still don’t think you should stop.

I think you should keep telling stories, if even sometimes. Dare to go off-brand, no matter what the content marketers and growth hackers say.

Any writers who are still with me, here’s some practical advice to you (I know, I’m totally being a hypocrite here, but it’s for a good cause)…

Write what you’d love to come upon
Anne Lamott

You’re a writer. You are remarkable at describing things. You’re a storyteller. This is your jam.

There’s a TON of pressure right now for you to amass huge numbers of likes, shares, followers, and social proof. It’s intoxicating.

A certain type of post, once you learn what triggers this kind of social response, will do just that. Every time. In today’s world, this kind of post has to do with quick, easy steps to achieve X thing (dropping an f-bomb or four usually helps too). Do this every day with a certain kind of headline, you too can have a big following that you can brag to your dad about.

I’ve toed this line. I really do try to help people through my words (it’s actually advice to myself disguised as advice to others — I digress, that’s for another post).

But I hardly ever use clickbait. My headlines are simple. No gimmicks. I hardly use bullets or numbered lists. Even the practical advice I give, I try to keep it light. Story-based. As if you and I were talking over a beer. Or three.

Having an audience is a valid desire. We’re writers. In order for our art to be worthwhile, it helps to not be speaking into a black hole. And when we get a taste of social approval in-scale, we want to keep on doing what ‘worked’ time and time again until EVERYONE likes us.

But I strongly warn against it. Forcing yourself to write a viral-type post every time usually carries a couple ramifications…

One, it will burn you out. You’ll become monotonous and your inner-spirit will have been apprehended by numbers of the masses. Don’t let this happen.

Two, you’ll lose your muchness as a writer. Even if you’re not a huge fiction person (you and me both), stories are likely what drive you. You know it’s true.

Now, that said, if advice is your thing, don’t stop that. We all love it. (As a matter of fact, my favorite books are books about writing from my favorite authors).

But never stop writing stories. Share stories. Tell us a tale. Switch it up. This is the complexity of a writer.

Even if you don’t get as many digital gold stars with these, keep writing them. Your real fans will love them and they’ll give you tremendous depth. Your storytelling abilities will keep you ahead of the game in today’s Hegelian world.

I’m waiting…

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