A Writer in a World Without Written Language

Last week, I asked fellow writers what they would do if they weren’t writers. Which got me wondering what I would do if I wasn’t a writer—if that wasn’t an option in our world.

All other things being the same, I think my dream job would be as a genealogist. I love digging around in the past so much, that I get as excited when I help other people do their family lines as when I do mine! So I think that would be my job: professional genealogist. I have no idea how you get to be a professional, but I certainly have logged thousands of “in the field” hours doing my own research!

But, since I am a writer, I took my mental musings a bit farther. What if I lived in a world with no written language? Then what? Genealogy research is based on documentation, which of course would not exist with no written language.

I don’t think I could be an oral storyteller, mostly because I dislike being the center of attention. And I would love to be the keeper of a family history, but my brain turned to mush at age 40 and I would have had to pass it on to the next generation already. So what to do in my retirement?

Keep in mind that a society without a written language does not necessarily have to be a backwards, primitive society. I expect that we would have evolved a different method of preserving and passing on information—likely a visual medium. So our stories would be long, elaborate films or series instead of books. Our non-fiction would be preserved in pictures and videos of lectures and speeches and documentaries. Music would have more weight, as songs would likely convey information instead of simply being “pop culture.”

In a world like that, what would I be? I would still be what I am, a storyteller, only I would have to use the visual medium of the day to tell my stories. I would have to learn to interweave the visual and the aural and the symbolism into a work of art on the screen. Which shouldn’t be too hard—many authors are visual thinkers anyway and many use music to set the mood as they write.

So I would be a visual storyteller. Which is kind of ironic, because in a previous life—before full-time writer, before Mommy—I was an award-winning video editor.

Funny how you can never escape what you really are.

I am a writer

I am a writer.


That is a powerful statement. The brevity of the words “I am” belies their definitive power. “I am” cuts to the essence of who and what you are as a person. A strong statement, “I am.”


I am a writer.


The force of that statement first hit home when Jonathan Maberry spoke about it in one of his workshops. We students had all shared what we “were.” Most of their statements were similar to mine: “I’m a video editor who has always loved to write, and wish I could write for a living.” After we were done, Jonathan told us that if we were serious about writing for a living, the first thing we had to do was define ourselves as writers. We had to start thinking of ourselves and introducing ourselves to others saying, “I am a writer.” He claimed that thinking this way would place writing as a high priority in our lives, that we (and others) would begin to take our writing seriously, and that it was only then that we could become successful as writers.


Jonathan was right. I began thinking of myself as a writer first. Very soon, I was no longer a video editor who writes, but a writer whose day job was video editing. Then (due to my wonderful, supportive husband!), I got the opportunity to quit the day job and pursue writing full-time. I make some money editing (words, not video), but the majority of my time is spent pursuing my craft and my dream. For the first time in my life, I wake up every day eager to get to work!


I am a writer!

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