You better not be telling a story

The Storyteller’s creed
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
That myth is more potent than history,
That dreams are more powerful than facts,
That hope always triumphs over experience,
That laughter is the only cure for grief,
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

— Robert Fulghum- All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten

I remember the first time I wrote a story that was not true. I felt so guilty like I had lied. I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I believe, and I had to take a standardized state test on writing. They told us that we could write about anything even if it was not true. I thought to myself that is lying. I had always been told that I should not tell stories. Storytelling was bad. It was lying. I could not bring myself to tell a complete lie so I took the truth and “expanded” on it. I do not remember the actual prompt but I remember the way I felt when I walked away from that test. I was so worried that my mom would somehow read my story and I would get in trouble for lying. I had heard so many times that I should not lie, I should not tell stories.

I was reflecting on this and realized we are doing children an injustice by telling them they should not tell stories. Maybe it was just in the communities that I grew up in but I have been told and heard other parents tell their children countless times because they were lying, “Stop telling stories! Don’t tell stories.” We should encourage the children to tell stories. They should come up with the craziest pink alligator is the president of the world stories. Otherwise we will never see another Ray Bradbury or Roald Dahl or Emily Dickinson or Toni Morrison. What they should not do is lie. How do you differentiate the two? How is lying different than telling stories? When a person lies they are purposely being deceitful. Deceit is the key. I do not have kids so I have no idea how you would explain to a child deceit. I can share that when I think of telling stories I think of entertaining. We tell stories to share history. Stories are meant to take you to another world. A lie is hurtful. Again I understand I am no parent. I am no educator. I am just a girl who realized that I should not feel guilty every time I want to make up a story.

I enjoyed texting stories about a female dragon slayer to my closest friends when I was in High school. I remember I had mastered being able to text without looking at my phone so as not to get in trouble. I would hold the phone inside the desk look dead at the teacher while they taught and text these elaborate stories about this girl slaying dragons. Granted some might say that I should have been paying attention to my teachers but that is a conversation about education reform that I will save for another day. I wish that someone had encouraged me to write more stories. I wish my imagination had been given the value it deserved. Einstein said,

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

I promise I didn’t make this up.

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