I’ve spent a good chunk of this weekend at a storytelling workshop, learning how to hone my stories and give them a bigger life than my current version gives them. It was tough, standing up in front of a group of other tellers, telling this story that wasn’t quite ready to be told* because I didn’t have all the details down, I hadn’t quite found the right path into the story yet. This wasn’t a vicious group, not by any means (storytellers are invariably able to tell you the good things they found in your story) but it was still unnerving.
It was very much worth the discomfort of the situation though, because I want to be a better storyteller. It was another of those types of situations where I could put aside my immediate pain for the gain of improving my stories (I like how many of those I have discovered lately – good to use as reminders that I can do that).
A certain level of storytelling comes naturally to me. I come from a family where stories are valued, and being able to remember the odd things someone said, or a funny thing that someone did, is encouraged. We love to use stories as round about ways of explaining things, and we can draw parallels between pretty disparate things by using a good narrative. When I began visiting friends on my own as a kid, I was surprised to discover that not everyone’s family does this, that not everyone knows about the foolish tricks their father played on their uncles as a kid, or the way their mom used to wear her jeans as a teenager.
But as much as that comes naturally to me, I still have a lot to learn. I still need a lot of practice, and I still need to increase my repetoire, and not just to have stories to drag out as entertainment. I need all of these storylines so I can help people. I’ve found that having so many stories at my disposal has helped me figure out how to comfort people in many tough situations, it has helped me reframe people’s self-narrative so it becomes more empowering to them, and it has helped me show others where their opponents might be coming from in an argument. Being able to say ‘What about if…’ and either run with a story I know, or develop one on the spot, is one of the skills I value most and so I want to hone that to as sharp a point as possible. If standing up in front of a group with a half-done story is the way to do that, well, I will suffer through.
Telling people stories is one gift I can give, telling people a kinder version of their own stories is a far greater one.
*when I was telling someone about it earlier, I compared it to going to a baking contest and then allowing them to judge my cookie dough against other people’s cookies.