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Tell me stories

I had to complete a Strengths survey thingy for work today, which comprises of 120 questions devised to draw out your innate talents. You have a time limit so you just have to choose what comes naturally, which I find pretty uncomfortable. I like to consider my decisions! Anyway, the results are not too surprising – my key strengths are communication, input, discipline, restorative, and futurist. So I’m a fix-it control freak who talks too much 🙂 Jokes aside, it’s actually pretty accurate, and very positive – considering my chosen profession is strategic communications.

One of the things that interested me about the survey was the questions concerning language and storytelling. For example there were several questions to discern wether you use complex or simple vocabulary. This is entirely dependent on the context! In my own personal writing and in most spoken contexts I am fairly complex. (I’ve noticed the more nervous I am, the worse it gets. If I’m comfortable, I speak in monosyllables. When I’m intimidated, I tend towards complexity and my tongue falls over itself and I end up looking even worse). However, in my work I am religiously plain and simple. (Not that religious is plain and simple, I mean I apply simplicity with religious ardour). And this is completely neccessary for what I do. So I struggled to make the distinction.

The other question that threw me was did I consider myself a good storyteller. And, bizarrely, my first reaction was no! This is pretty shocking, considering I want to be a writer. Then I realised I was thinking about storytelling Out Loud – which I don’t excel at. Storytelling on paper is another thing altogether. And yet… I think of myself as a writer, but not a storyteller. I wonder if that’s unusual? I guess I may have to start thinking that if I ever want to write That Novel…

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Tell me stories

  1. You will write [a novel] when you are ready to write…

    I started many over a twenty year period and never finished any and then one day I was just ready and wrote it… Now I just need to get it published 😆

    Posted by dannevirkelibrarian | August 23, 2010, 3:29 am
  2. I have spent the better part of my life writing in one form or another and my work has also required that I speak on diverse subjects to many audiences large and small. This doesn’t make me an expert but the experience has allowed me some insights into the perils and rewards of extemporaneous speaking as distinct from communicating on paper. I think that you are potentially a very good oral storyteller but you tend to block yourself by being so focussed on first organizing your thoughts.

    Oral storytelling requires that you use a different part of your brain from that used for writing. Actually, the two work together because both start from the creation of an idea. When we speak of storytelling orally or in written form we’re really only talking mechanics – how to get the idea out in one of the two modalities.

    I have a feeling that writing is easier for you because it is based upon organizing your thoughts carefully ahead of time around a certain theme within well-known conventions of grammer, composition, syntax, etc. You are obviously quite comfortable with that but the key advantage is that it is private. No one need see the finished product until you are satisfied with it. So you are protected from first hand criticism while in the drafting process. In other words, you control the agenda which speaks to your controlling nature.

    Oral storytelling is vastly different because it involves personal contact with a live audience and you can’t always control the agenda because there is a different dynamic at work. In other words, storytelling is really about human relationships and how you manage them through your story. Perhaps the greatest difference is that risk. You are throwing yourself out there without the safety net of a well-organized private drafting exercise.

    Probably your tendency to shy from oral storytelling is linked to some uncertainty about how you will come off with the audience. It’s not that you lack the storytelling ability or the stories. I know this because I’ve seen you in action. It’s all about self-confidence ,letting yourself go with an idea and, above all, accepting the risk of failure. It’s really okay to fail. Everyone does and that’s how we learn. Don’t be afraid to look the fool. Your friends will understand and your enemies don’t count anyway.

    My advice would be just this: think of a story, any story, that you’d like to tell and then just write it down without any thought to the rules of composition. Pretend you are speaking to an audience. Maybe tell the story out loud in front of a mirror.Don’t be afraid of appearing silly. Who needs to know? I used to do this often and I found that once the story had gelled into a coherent form, I could speak easily to an audience or write more formally and properly if that was what was called for.

    Self confidence derives from failure and having the ability to shake it off and have another go. You don’t have to start with the great Kiwi novel. Start with something very simple. And don’t worry about correctness. Just get the story out and the rest will take care of itself. You can and I believe will one day write your novel. But first work on restraining somewhat your concern for organization and being in control. Have fun with it!. You have many potential stories that you could try on just from your experience here in Canada. Just believe. You can do it!

    Posted by Rick Darroch | August 23, 2010, 2:50 pm

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