Storytelling means sharing a part of you

The art of storytelling is as sacred and precious as time itself. Many things have been said about it over the course of history – and many have perfected it and defined it in their own way.

It’s one of those things that can’t be manufactured or replicated. It’s a delicate flower that has to bloom on its own, or it will come off as fabricated or fake.

With all that’s been said and even written about storytelling, however, I don’t think there’s enough said about how – and most importantly – when, to tell a story.

As a writer, I find that rather unusual because all those elements seemingly go hand-in-hand without question. I think you get to a certain point where, as a storyteller and a professional, you know your craft and know where to place certain things. The writer in me would want to share that wealth of knowledge in hopes of helping someone who’s just starting out.

As a person, however, I can relate to the hesitance some people may have to share that much information with everyone on the planet. Some of those pieces of your life may have helped you get to where you are today, but you want them to remain yours – and yours alone.

At that point, you have to draw a line and stay true to yourself personally and professionally. Sometimes I think I’m still trying to find that line.

As much of myself as I’ve “put out there” as a writer, there are still a lot of things I’ve put to the side. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing altogether or randomly start throwing a bunch of words on a piece of paper. It just means I need to really sit and think before I dust certain pieces of my life off and put them on display.

By the same token, there comes a time when stories aren’t simple. They’re no longer tales about a teddy bear or a tutu. One line turns into a chapter, and the pages can be filled with anecdotes about anything from friendship to cancer.

I got a little taste of that in high school, but it really hit me when I got to college. I saw how I was affected by certain things the friends I’d made there were going through, which made me hesitant to write about those experiences. They weren’t mine to write about and I felt I had no business inserting myself into a story where my name didn’t belong.

I still feel that way sometimes, but my name has found its place in their stories over the years, and that’s more than I could ask for.

It goes to show that stories mature along with the people who choose to tell them on their own terms. The words may change along the way, but the meaning between each page won’t.

Erin Kelly, 29, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. In addition to this column, she also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project and The Mobility Resource. Email her at