“You are a storyteller!” These words came from someone I believe knows what they are talking about, just the other day.
I had never looked at myself in that way. I have always loved words and to play with them. If they are nicely and cleverly put together they can entertain, they can bite and they can educate. They can even change someone’s point of view all together if they are strong enough. I have also always liked writing but thought of myself as an amateur who is just doing it for fun. I have always felt like I need more tutoring in the art of telling stories, get someone more knowledgeable than me to tell me HOW to do it. At the same time, I wonder how much exactly can be taught without people losing their personal touch when writing.
After he told me I was good at telling stories I started thinking about it and I did come to the conclusion that it is somewhat right and that I have been doing this from a very early age. Stories and words are something I have used as an escape from a very young age. I have also used them to entertain myself and others.
Hiding from the dark
I am from Iceland. It can be extremely dark there and during winters we hardly get any daylight, we get dusk and then darkness again. For someone who is afraid of the dark this is horrid!
As a child and teenager I was very afraid of the dark. When I was a kid we used to have school before or after lunch. As me and my brother had school after lunch, we had to walk ourselves to an activity before school at a very young age. It would be dark and cold, and it was quite a long walk for small feet. I couldn’t stand silence. In the silence my head would go all over the place and I would imagine shadows being something they weren’t, I’d imagine all the worst I had ever heard, and I would imagine any noise I heard being something gruesome. Therefore, I would let my brother choose a story for me to tell him while we held hands and walked to our “before school activity”. Once I had told him the story of Red Riding Hood so often I could do it without thinking (and therefore had space to think about all the horrible things in the dark while spurting it effortlessly out) I came up with a different idea. I had to challenge myself if this walk was supposed to be bearable. I asked him to tell me what kind of a story he wanted to hear and name at least one character he would like me to include in the story. After that I would make up stories about bunnies on great adventures, dragons with toothache and more. This way I had to think, I had to be creative to make sure he was interested, and I had to make sure they were long enough to last all the way to the “before school activity”.
I used the same approach when walking alone in the dark, going home from a friend’s house or from an afternoon activity. I often had to take a dark path that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and seem to have no end to it, my heart would start racing as soon as I got close to it. I would therefore have conversations with myself, in a way. I would do a roleplay without dolls or toys as I would just imagine them in my head and then do their voices and conversations. I felt ashamed of this as I was old enough to realise this looked very weird to anyone who would walk past me. But it worked. I took myself away from the dark into a magical place where I could be anyone doing anything, and believe me, they were never surrounded by darkness!
I have always had a vivid imagination.
My attempts to be a novelist
Three times I have started or finished my own “books”.
My first attempt was when I was around 8 years old. I had a 4-year-old niece and I had just realised I could draw pretty good pictures and produce good stories. I loved my niece like a little sister and enjoyed making her happy. I got lined A4 paper out and my pencils. I wrote a story about a girl star. An actual starshaped girl. I cannot remember the story anymore but she must have gone on a magnificent adventure. I remember she had gloves on and I coloured all the pictures and the story was quite a few pages long. I remember how excited I was after I finished it and walked across the town where I lived to give it to her.
My second attempt was when I was a teenager. In Iceland most teenagers get confirmed. When they get confirmed they get presents. The year I got confirmed PC’s were the go-to gift for parents to give to their teenagers. Most of my classmates got computers and could connect a lead to their computer to go onto the internet. That was huge at the time! While they were online they would go on chatrooms and talk to strangers. I was not allowed an internet lead, my parents didn’t think teenagers should be connected to the internet. I didn’t care! I was in heaven as there I had my very own typewriter! I had often written short stories and poems but my hand would get very tired after a few pages. Once I got the computer I started writing. I wrote a story about teenagers. It was a spooky story and very much a teenagers story where I would describe the clothing they would wear and there would be a lot of drama and love. The story involved a ghost of another teenager who had been murdered. Once I finished a chapter, I would bring it to my friends to read. They got very excited and encouraged me to keep writing. I never finished it but got close to 100 pages and enjoyed it. I probably then started chasing boys myself and put it aside!
My third story came about when I was around 20 years old. I worked in a kindergarten and sometimes we needed something to catch the kids attention and get them to have some quiet time. I would get a marker in hand and stand by the whiteboard. I would then tell them the story of Króki the space crocodile. I would make it interactive and they would raise their hands to fill in where I asked them to. They loved seeing the story come alive in front of them. When I was 24, again, I worked at a kindergarten and brushed the dust of my friend Króki. I would adjust the story to each class, whether it was 2-year olds or 5-year olds etc. Once the headmistress walked in and was in awe, she said she had never seen a class of thirty 4 – 5-year olds sit so still, quiet and ready to raise their hand in order to get their part in. She was adamant we had to take this story further. After work I hardly touched the ground as I felt so appreciated and flattered. I told my boyfriend at the time about her words and he said: “No YOU GUYS are not doing anything with the story!”
I replied with: “What?”
He said: “YOU should do something with YOUR story. Don’t let anyone else take credit for it!”
I didn’t have the drive to do it alone nor the belief in myself therefore, I didn’t do more with the story for the time being. Soon after I thought to myself, I should probably get my head out of the clouds, I wasn’t an author, I was just an amateur that could keep little kids amused for a short period of time.
When I was 27 years old, I did my equivalent of A-levels. I was a single mum with two young kids. I bought old furniture and did them up. I ran the household, raised the kids, was a top student and therefore felt equipped to do anything and felt like nothing could stop me. Therefore, once again, I brushed the dust of Króki. I got a pencil and paper and wrote the story and drew pictures. I sent it to one publisher and held my breath. I got a rejection, but I was damn proud of myself for actually having the courage to send it in. I should have sent it to more places but one rejection at a time!
Escape and outlet
While I was in school, we had to learn poems. We had to handwrite them and decorate with pictures, then we had to learn them by heart. I loved that. I could cry over a beautiful poem, I could laugh over naughty play on words and I could wrestle with elaborate poems with a unique use of words and phrases.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that I realised I could write my own poems. That one didn’t need to be William Shakespeare to write poems. It helped when I got a teacher that challenged the rules and form of poems. Told us to break them. Said that, in itself was art. I realised I didn’t have to follow all the rules or even make things rhyme. That was a huge breakthrough for me. Poems became my outlet and escape. I expressed the hardship I went through in poems. I also wrote about teenage drama. Poems became something I used when I hit walls or something really difficult happened in my life. That way I could sleep. If I went through any sort of trauma I would go to bed and my mind would be racing. If I reached for a pen and a piece of paper, however, I could take all the emotions and thoughts and put them on the paper in the form of poems and then go to sleep. Some of them are full of self-pity, but they did the job they were intended to do at the time.
When I did my equivalent of A-levels I had Icelandic teachers that taught us about Icelandic literature. One of the things they covered were poems. I told them I had bunch of poems I had been writing from the age of 13 up till then (I was 27 at the time). I asked it they wanted to read them over. I had always kept them locked for no one to see except my closest friends and family. They were happy to! I had all the poems on one file on my computer and sent it to both of my teachers. Later the same night the horrible realisation dawned upon me! I should have gone through them before I sent them! Two of the poems were very offensive, full of rage poems about my ex, where I listed all his faults and made cruel fun of him and his manhood. When I spoke to them a few days later they told me how much they liked the poems and that it was unique to see a collection spanning such a long time and very interesting to see how I developed from a teenager to a young woman. They never mentioned the outburst poems about my ex.
Blogs, articles and Facebook statuses
For a few years I blogged, in Icelandic and just about my life in general. I also blogged about things that touched me. But it was just a blog that described the mind of a 22 – 24-year-old woman. Unfortunately, I can not access these blogs anymore as I would love to read them, and then probably hide them forever as I am sure they are cringeworthy now!
I also did a few blogs while I lived in the Middle East describing my life and thoughts there. I did it in Icelandic and then translated them into English below. They were mostly an attempt to be funny and sometimes provoking.
I have also written A FEW articles and then long notes (in the form of articles) on Facebook.
We should not take our gifts for granted
So, I guess using written words, expressing myself through stories, poems, blogs etc. has always been a part of me.
Nowadays I feel like it is a bit of a challenge though. Both to find something to write about but also to find the time to write. I should probably do more of it as it liberates me and gives me pleasure.
My brother keeps encouraging me to write stories, but I feel like I don’t have anything to write about. Like I don’t have the imagination anymore. That it left me as I grew up. He has proposed to do it the way we did it on our long, dark journeys as kids, he comes up with a concept or an idea and I write around it. Maybe one day. I do love losing myself in the world of writing.
I didn’t think it was something special, I didn’t see it as a gift. I thought it was something anyone could do but now I know better. When I reflect, I recognise my friends often come to me and ask me to put things into words for them “because you are such a good writer” they say. They tell me they do not worry about me if I have to deliver a speech or do a written creative assignment as they say: “You with a pen can conquer anything”.
Therefore, after being told I am a storyteller, after thinking back and thinking about kind words from family and friends I realise it is not a given, it is not something everyone can easily do. I should utilise my talents. I WILL find the time. For the time being this blog will be my practice and my muse.