Why do I Write Stories?

The best way to answer this question is to ask why anyone tells stories. Why do humans tell stories in the first place? At its root, the answer to this question is quite simple: we tell stories because we must, because telling stories is part of being human. In order to be a functioning person at all, we must be fairly adept at telling stories, and–with some very unfortunate exceptions–we are. We must be good at telling stories because there is no more basic or powerful means of making our world, of making it a human world, of making it a place where humans can live. We live our lives in stories and through stories because there is no other place to live, no other way to live.

One of the dangers facing our world today is that too many of us have forgotten how to tell good stories. We’re still telling stories–we can’t stop–but our stories are no longer fashioning a world in which we can live. Our stories grasp and tear. Our words cut like knives. We build walls out of sentences. Ursula Le Guin observed that, “A people that doesn’t live at the center of the world, as defined and described by its poets and storytellers, is in a bad way. The center of the world is where you live.” But we have forgotten how to narrate ourselves into the center of things.

There are many reasons for this: disdain for literature and art, rampant materialism, even more rampant consumerism, the commodification of everything, the intellectualization of art, etc. Storytelling can help us slay this many-headed hydra, but the beast will only stay dead when we do so together. In the past each group of people saw themselves as the center. China was the “Middle Kingdom 中國.” The Mediterranean was the Center of the Earth. Those days are gone. Whether we like it or not we are now one people inhabiting one world. We will only be able to tell ourselves back into the center of that world if we all go together–as citizens of one planet, as members of one family, as the single body of humanity forged in the fire of our own foolishness from our many parts.

So, I write stories because I have to, because I know of no other way to live and move forward.

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