Things I Would Like To Do

Lately, I’ve been thinking about stories, my own place as a storyteller, and what I’d like to do with my stories. These are very big questions to which the answers are often mutable and evanescent. There are so many things I could do with my stories; so many things I don’t want to do  or am not yet skilled enough to do. It used to be enough just to write stories because I enjoyed writing them. Is that always enough? I suppose that depends on who you are. There are people who love writing and telling stories but who never want that to be the focus of their lives. In that case, writing a story for any reason other than loving to write stories is probably  not a good idea. It would be silly to have what might be called “an agenda” for all of one’s hobbies and little enjoyments . I don’t play video games because I’m seeking enlightenment or higher truth or to change my world; I play them  because they’re fun. Likewise, the more casual writers–which here means writers who don’t write as their main point in life, as opposed to writers who simply don’t take writing seriously (a lot which shouldn’t really be writing)–write because writing is fun and often brings personal fulfillment. That isn’t to say that telling a story is not also very hard and at times very painful; but ultimately, it is a true joy.

 

But what about those who view creating stories to be the focus of their talents, their point in life, the thing that God has given them to do? Those sorts of people need more reasons than fun or joy; we need a goal, a purpose, a higher calling than story for story’s sake. So I’ve been asking myself what my stories mean and why I’m writing them. I feel as if I must have a noble goal; maybe this feeling is something that will fade, but at this time of my life, it is strong and I don’t think  I should ignore it. As an idealist, I care more about  how things should be than about how they are, and I firmly believe that storytelling  should have a noble purpose. Don’t misunderstand: I don’t think the lack of a purpose beyond the enjoyment of stories makes for a poor or false storyteller. But I do think that storytelling is not the best it can be without a higher purpose.

 

I don’t advocate preaching; I advocate having an ideal, some shining thing at which you grasp, the searching for which permeates every story you tell. It is something that goes far beyond a superficial message of the text or the words, and is in reality the depth and focus of the story.

 

And so, there are two things I would like to do with storytelling, though they are not the only things and I’m not sure of the reasons for why I would like to do them. The first thing is to revive the old-fashioned style of epic poetry, the style of works like Beowulf or The Illiad or Paradise Lost or any number of others, and make it popular once again in the present day. This  is a somewhat curious desire, as I have not read any of the great epic poems of old (a travesty which I am working to undo). I can’t entirely say why the idea fascinates me so, except that I put great value on old things and that I think the literary world has lost something by no longer creating poetry of that caliber. I would like  to write poetry of that style about subjects closer to the modern heart. Poetry is powerful and it moves the mind and heart in a way that prose can never quite achieve. Although I don’t fully understand this desire, I feel intrinsically that it is a worthy goal.

 

The other thing is a more recent thought and not one which I like quite so much. But it is the idea of  reviving old-fashioned oral storytelling, of bringing back the oral tradition of our ancestors. The art of telling a story out loud–not acting out a scene or reciting some dry anecdote, but telling a real, complicated story– is something which seems to have been largely lost in modern Western culture. Wouldn’t  it be wonderful if the village storyteller or the wandering bard became once more as important as he used to be? I think there is value in hearing a story from a person who lives and breathes right next to you. It’s so much more personal and powerful than the story told by a person in a movie  with no connection to yourself.

 

And so I’d like to start a dual movement of people reviving epic poetry and oral storytelling. I’m still trying to decide why, and to answer the greater question of why I want to tell any story. The answer is there, I’m sure, but I haven’t quite grasped it  yet.

 

~ Jared

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9 thoughts on “Things I Would Like To Do

  1. Reblogged this on The Poetry Band Blog and commented:
    We all at some point, or often, wonder why we write. What purpose does it serve in our lives? What do we want from the writing? What do we want to give the writing? What would we like to make of the act of writing? There’s a lot of questions.

    Fae highlights and contemplates many of these questions in her post:

  2. I’ve been thinking through this same thing for a while. Thanks for putting it into words.

    “The first thing is to revive the old-fashioned style of epic poetry, the style of works like Beowulf or The Illiad or Paradise Lost or any number of others, and make it popular once again in the present day.”

    OH MY GOODNESS YES.
    YES.
    DUDE.
    YES.

    This is seriously something I’ve wanted to do. Not that I can write poetry (yet), let alone epic poetry (yet), but I also feel like the world has lost something with the “death” of the epic poem. I would love to see it brought back and even be a part of it if I could and when I have the skill.

    “The other thing is a more recent thought and not one which I like quite so much. But it is the idea of reviving old-fashioned oral storytelling, of bringing back the oral tradition of our ancestors. The art of telling a story out loud–not acting out a scene or reciting some dry anecdote, but telling a real, complicated story– is something which seems to have been largely lost in modern Western culture. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the village storyteller or the wandering bard became once more as important as he used to be?”

    Again, yes. I would love to see this art be revived, and in some ways I think it might be easier than bringing back epic poetry. Because many of us could do this, given some public speaking skills and an intrinsic love for stories. Considering public speaking is our number one phobia, if we could get over that, I think it’s entirely possible for us to bring this back.

    1. Hey, I’m glad to find someone else who shares my passion for bringing back epic poetry! It’s such a fantastic form. Not better or worse than a novel, just something different, and the literary world has definitely become less broad by no longer including it as a main style.

      And yeah, I agree that bringing back oral storytelling would probably be easier than bringing back epic poetry. What I would like to see happening is an interconnected network of small storytelling groups, a guild of sorts, that would slowly spread around the country. They would primarily tell stories for themselves, but maybe some of them could into performing for larger audiences, too.

      1. This would be so cool. Small groups would definitely be the way to start bringing back oral storytelling. In a way this form hasn’t died out in the way epic poetry has, because it’s still used for kids (usually by their parents). Even for adults, in some ways it’s similar to the audiobook, but with a different atmosphere and tone since the person would be telling the story rather than simply reading it.

        In contrast, I think the biggest challenge to bringing back epic poetry is probably the market — even if we did become masters of the craft, I imagine it would be difficult to “get it out there” because a lot of people have a hard time with poetry in general, and epics in particular are more difficult to read than a novel. Of course I believe it’s worth the effort, but convincing readers (and publishers) of that could be difficult. While we could obviously write the genre regardless of who reads it, an audience is unfortunately an important part in “bringing it back.”

        Of course, all that really means is that it’ll take time and effort, which is already obvious (I mean, it’s epic poetry). I wonder if a start might be to find (or start ourselves) magazines that could publish “chapters” of the epic like short stories. That’s sometimes how novelists start out anyway, publishing short stories in magazines.

      2. Exactly. It’s all about the telling of the story and about interaction with the audience. I think a huge part of this style is being able to *be there*, look your audience in the eye, let them see your gestures, ask them what they think happens next, fully engage them in a way that doesn’t happen with an audio book or some such. You make a good point about parents keeping this style alive to some extent with their children, I hadn’t thought of that. It could really take off, considering the nostalgic feelings most people probably have towards that kind of story.

        Oh yeah, the market would be a huge challenge. I think you’d be more likely to find interested readers than interested publishers, to be sure; you’d probably have to start by building up a base of readers, which you could then show to a publisher and say “look at how successful this has been!” Anyway, I think starting a magazine would be an excellent idea. There aren’t any (to my knowledge, at least) magazines out already that publish this sort of thing. It’d be pretty awesome to make one.

  3. Yeah, communication with the audience would be a huge part of oral storytelling. While I think most people could learn to do it on some level, certain personalities will naturally be better suited to that particular craft — I know I probably wouldn’t, though I would still like to learn. In a way that might make writing epic poetry easier, since it puts a wider gap between the storyteller and the audience (unless we intended to bring back the bards as well, which would also be cool) — and I, being the antisocial person that I am, will naturally be more inclined to that, once I have mastered poetry (and I have a long way to go). I haven’t done any research into the different magazines out there, but since the goal is to bring back a dead form, a new magazine would probably be necessary; so of course we would need to find people willing to invest in that time and energy (and money) into that.

    All in all then it’ll take quite a collaboration, but since I’m sure you’re right about it being easier to find interested readers than interested publishers, having a way to publish ourselves would definitely be an advantage.

    Guess I should go work on my poetry.

    1. I’m not sure I’d be very good at it, either. I could see myself getting decently skilled, but I’d probably never have a true talent for it. Still, I think it’d be something worth pursuing, especially if by doing so I could find people who really were gifted in that style.

      And yeah, it would definitely have to be a big collaborative effort. Not sure where we’d find enough interested parties, but they’d definitely be something to be on the lookout for. I suppose an online literary journal would be the place to start, and that could probably be started as another wordpress blog…

      Ha ha, I need to work on my poetry too. :P

      1. Exactly, we’d need to be looking for people who had real skill and potential for that style.

        I’m sure we could find “interested parties” among OYANers. We’re all a ways off from where we’d need to be in each of our fields, but enough people interested early on could help build momentum. Even if we didn’t have anyone publishing a magazine (and it would be a while before we had anything to publish, anyway), an online literary journal would indeed be the place to start and would also be much simpler to keep going.

        I’m excited about these possibilities — I think they could really happen. One thought that struck me earlier, though, is that if we succeeded in bringing back the epic poem, I don’t think I’d want it to become as popular as the novel — at least not nearly as numerous. There’s a certain magic I feel the epic poems have that comes from there being so few of them, and as much as I’d like to see the form return, I don’t want it to ever feel commonplace. Does that make sense?

      2. T’would be an exciting search, to be sure.

        Yes, we probably could. I’ll have to talk to some people and see if they have any interest. Feel free to mention the idea amongst your own friends as well.

        I’m excited, too! I can see where you’re coming from with not wanting them to be as popular as novels, but I’m not sure I agree. I personally wouldn’t have any issue with them becoming popular like novels are. However, I doubt that they ever would, and all I really want is to bring them back as a respected and viable genre.

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