The writers I know love to write to the point that they will fill all the nooks and corners of their lives with writing. They will work full time jobs and write late at night, or on weekends when the weather is perfect and everyone else is out adventuring. They’ll wake up at five to sneak in time before the kids are up, or skip lunch, or breakfast, or both.

There are times in life when I start to think too hard about rejection, and failure, and question what I do. It’s easy to do, and once there, it’s easy to stop seeing a piece of writing as something alive and full of potential. There are so many more reasons not to write than there are to do so.

This is what I do when that happens. I think of campfires. I think of all the stories people tell around a fire, or in the backseat of a taxi, or to their children before bedtime. I think about how humans are driven to tell stories, and the many ways we do so. I think about the subterranean world of writers, their silent endless striving to share the lives happening inside their heads.

I think about tribes. I think about my own, about the family members and friends who have patiently read everything I’ve written, who have listened to the stories I tell as closely as if we were seated around a campfire of our own, the firelight flickering, the stars overhead.

Storytellers need tribes. But our tribes don’t need to number in the millions. Just a few faces looking back at us through the firelight may be more than enough to make the whole thing worthwhile.


  1. I think telling stories is part of what makes us human. Great post!

  2. I have this strange idea with no scientific basis, that there is a gene for storytelling. Kind of like when scientists found a “priestly” gene for rabbis about 10 years ago. Which explains (to me anyway) why we do this against all odds.

  3. I agree that telling stories is a necessary piece of our humanity. It’s interesting to me how it’s become a commodity, how often the value of a written story is in the size of its audience. Isn’t it rather miraculous to be able to reach ten, or fifty, or one hundred people? What is the natural size of a tribe?

  4. I enjoyed this post on so many planes! First, I think you’re right that we tend to “commercialize” even the writing process, thinking too hard of audience and publication, forgetting the simple joys of writing, and of learning and growing and a writer. And also the thought of tribe is nice. I remember the first day someone not already a friend or family member read, ‘liked’ and subscribed to my blog. There were three that day, and two from outside the US (where I live). I was floored, then giddy, then simply…amazed. Storytelling brought us together. How wonderful is that?

  5. We are the stories that we tell. Writing is such a luminous contradiction. It’s a solitary craft by nature, yet it is born from the ancestral art of the Story, which is meant to be communal. Whether you write for yourself, or you share your work with others, the images and words burn across the skin of your mind until you’ve finally got it all out on the page. Great post.

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