I’m baffled by writers. They are this mysterious lot that has more rituals and superstitions than a hockey player coming to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Every writing class I’ve ever been in agrees there’s some magical formula to being a “real” writer. Usually it involves keeping journals and writing notes on sticky notes. Another part of this ritual involves sticking those notes all over the computer and token whiteboard or corkboard. Every writer carries a notebook and pen for sudden spurts of inspiration. I always feel like such a fraud when I realize I do none of this.

I have a mind-mapping software that lets me spin out my notes in a way that works for me and the way my brain works. I’ve tried to tell other writers about this, but the look I’m given is the same one you give a brain damaged puppy. I don’t carry a pen or a notebook. Writing is a chore for me sometimes since my hands shake. Besides, if an idea is really juicy, I like to chew on it for a while and let it percolate for a bit. I don’t like sticky notes, but I will admit it is fun to stick them to the cat. I am allergic to journals.

There is very little of the writer’s rituals that I do. I feel like a guilty Catholic and wonder if I’m a real writer. I don’t know. I’ve spent the last two years in a writing program that is supposed to teach me how to be a real writer and all I’ve learned is that I’m not a writer.

I’m a storyteller. Writers, I find, are fascinated by words; how they sound, how they feel, how they work together. They know a dangling modifier when they see it and can shoot a participle at 10 paces. I have a nodding acquaintance with grammar at best. Writers feel a burning desire to be published and jump through amazing hoops to placate the editor. I only want to have my stories heard.

In my Metis blood is where this comes from. Scots and Cree are the majority of my heritage, though some French is there; I cheerfully ignore that. Growing up, my mother would tell me stories about her own childhood. She got the gift of weaving a good story from her own father, whom I’ve met once. So, telling a story is a part of my very core.

Writing is involved, but I see it different than writers. I hear the story of how Hemmingway once changed a story ending 300 times or so and it stuns me. Why didn’t he let the story tell itself? Sounds like trying to fit a fat woman into a corset. The story will tell itself. Not always the way you expect or the way you want, but it will lead you the way it wants to go.

I am fascinated by stories and love to watch them take shape then trim and primp them to sparkling beauty. Then I strut them up and down the street and pimp them out to anyone willing to give them attention. My stories are not lofty things, nor are they delicate. My stories have callouses and muscles from working the docks. Their hair is dishevelled and unwashed. They are not ones to mingle with such literature as Margaret Atwood might write. No. They’re often down at the neighbourhood pub with Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis singing pub songs with a mug of beer.

It’s taken me years to realize this is who and what my stories are. I’m good with that. I’m a storyteller.

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