What Happens When You Tell Someone Else’s Story?

blog0615 If you told me five years ago about the series of interviews I would conduct as an online journalist for a magazine, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

I was a creative writer and I wanted nothing to do with talking to other people (introvert problems). I had my own stories—made up, but still mine—and I was the only one who could tell them. I poured over my stories like my life depended on it. With a dream of publishing a book someday, I guess all that made sense.

Yes, I still write creatively (obv) and I still create my own fictional worlds and people and plots. I would still love to publish a novel and let other people read those stories, because I don’t believe any story should stay locked inside a brain.

But if I never do, if my stories stay written but never read, I have other dreams, too. In the past three years having worked on a school newspaper staff (which I’d never done before I got to college, which isn’t too typical, I learned the hard way) and then having joined the College Lifestyles intern class (they still haven’t gotten rid of me, I don’t mind), I’ve learned something about myself I really wish I’d learned earlier.

I love telling other people’s stories more than I like telling my own.

The Other Side of Q&A

Being interviewed, no matter the occasion, is hard for me. I never feel like what comes out of my mouth is enough to convey the points I really want to make. But give me a subject, an interviewee, and I’m in virtual journalism heaven.

In the past month I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing multiple students, to give them a chance to open up about their college experiences and share their stories and career goals. I like writing standard articles and giving tips and browsing academic journals for information. But real stories, from real people, that’s what I love most.

I don’t seek out a whole lot of attention—not in my personal life, anyway. I’m just not that kind of person. Yet when someone else has a story to tell, and I have the opportunity to help them tell it, I pass that story around almost obnoxiously, because that person deserves to have a voice, and it’s always for a good, positive reason. 

It’s possible the true sign of literary maturity, the moment you know you’ve reached a sort of quaint sophistication, arises when you crave attention—not for yourself, but for the opportunity to bring well-deserved attention to the good people who do brighten up this often questionable world.

Not that I’m all that mature or sophisticated. Life is too short to act serious all the time. Sometimes I try to be funny and it’s not funny, but life is also too short to spend the bulk of it caring what other people think.

Becoming the Medium

Sometimes it’s hard for people to put what they want to say into words that will move the public. Some people just aren’t good with words, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s important to remember that, as a writer, sometimes we need to put down our own could-be masterpieces for a while and use our skills, our talents, our gifts, to help someone else speak their mind.

Everyone has important things to say. Some just don’t know how, or they’re afraid, or they haven’t been trained to construct a solid argument. It doesn’t make them any less of a person and it doesn’t mean you can swoop in and take over.

But you can still spend time with them, and listen to them, and the more often you do that, the more you’ll understand what really happens when you take a risk, dive into the unknown, and tell someone else’s story, just the way they need it to be told.

What happens is, you stop thinking of yourself, and your wants, and your needs, and all the ways you wish your life could be different. And if you’re in it for the right reasons, if you’re really doing it to help, you stop being just a writer or just a journalist or just a reporter.

Gradually, you become human, and use words that make the world better, and do your part to remind everyone else there are good things, and if they pay enough attention, they’ll find them everywhere they go.

Are you a writer with an awesome story to tell? Check out our Undiscovered Authors project.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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