Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Everybody Has a Story

In a New York Times editorial from September 28, 2002, Joseph Epstein quotes a survey that claims 81% of Americans would like to write a book. (I don't know how reliable that survey is, but Epstein doesn't cite or question the specific source.) That's about four out of every five people who dream of someday publishing a book. But Epstein goes on to tell his readers, “Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity. Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.

Even though he's written over a dozen books, he think you shouldn't even attempt to write one. He thinks you should abandon your dream. Why? Because he thinks your book isn't necessary. It won't be good enough, and it won't offer readers anything new. 

I disagree. 

I believe that everyone has a story worth telling. 

CBS New correspondent Steve Hartman believes that too. Every couple of weeks between 1998 and 2004, Hartman had someone throw a dart at a map of the United States. The dart would land on some random location, and the phone book helped him choose a random house. He then did a story on someone who lived there--and the stories were always fascinating. That's because people--real, everyday people, the kind of people Epstein thinks shouldn't write a book--are fascinating. They're full of surprises. There's so much you don't know about them.

This segment was called "Everybody Has a Story." The name says it all. I believe everybody truly does have a story. Not everyone knows what that story is--and even those who do rarely know how to tell it well--but that doesn't mean their story shouldn't be told. On the contrary. I'm grateful for every story that's saved, and sad for all the stories we've lost, because they were never written down.

I believe that a story is a gift. The right story can give a reader knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, encouragement, or hope. Your story is a gift, a gift someone probably needs to make his or her life better. How sad would this world be if we all kept our stories inside? How selfish would that be?

If you dream of writing a book someday, you should write a book. It might take a while for you to figure out what your story is--what gift you have to offer and to whom--but once you do, you should realize your dream.

There's a story only you can write, and there's someone who needs to read it. Don't let them down. Don't let your dream down.

Everybody has a story worth telling. What's yours?


LM Preston said...

I totally agree with you. There's lots of reasons people want to write their stories, usually it starts because they need to get it out of them. Also, writing one isn't as easy as saying you are.

Shevi said...

That's true. I think that's why only a very small percentage of those who say they want to write a book actually write one. And of course there are all the naysayers who try to stop you before you've even started. I think it gets a lot easier once you start to believe in your story.

John Wiswell said...

I'm presently laboring on one of the many stories I have telling. It weighs in around 108,000 words and I'm honing every one of them. It wouldn't surprise me if that survey is correct, though, especially if the answers were only "Would like to write a book" and "Would not." I'd like to co-direct a movie, design a videogame and go into space, but I don't have the drive to do any of those things. My drive is for fiction.

Shevi said...

You're probably right, John. Of course, there's a difference between wanting to write a book and wanting to have written a book. Maybe a lot of those people wanted to have written a book, but they didn't really want to write one.

Anyway, I'm glad you have the drive to make your dream come true.

Jessica Johnson said...

I agree with you. I feel like everyone's stories is important in the grand scheme of things, but no one will know if someone doesn't start writing things down.

Shevi Arnold said...

Thanks, Jessica.