Welcome to the Reluctant Storytellers blog.
About four years ago I started writing blog posts. As someone who prefers to share other people’s ideas over my own, this was a difficult challenge.
My background is in documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, I am usually the one asking questions, not the person answering them.
I started writing blog posts not because I wanted to, but because I thought that is what I had to do.
Writing for me was uncomfortable.
I had built up many defenses against sharing my personal ideas.
Like many of us I remember a moment when my voice was ignored.
I’m sure many of us have this moment.
My moment was when I was eight or nine at the time on a girls holiday with my mom, aunt, cousins, and sister. My sister and I tried to get my mom and aunt to watch the play we ‘wrote’ – one of our rambling stream of conscious mass of words and ideas without a destination but shared with a whole lot of passion.
I’m sure they just wanted to relax and were hoping we’d entertain ourselves, so at some point they stopped watching, and that left a mark.
Layered on top of that were the rules of academic writing and business communication full of jargon and corporate speak.
The process of writing a blog felt like trying to say something without letting people know “I” was saying it.
I felt like I had to be official.
And in the back of my head I felt like nobody cared what I was writing about.
Over time, I realized I have ideas I want to share.
Not only did I have ideas, but I wanted people to find use from these ideas.
I realized people read blogs to hear from the person writing, not from some anonymous “voice of god,” as they say about omniscient narrators in documentaries.
So I had to find a way to shed the many layers of obfuscation that I had built up over the years as I had tried to fit into artificial molds, both real and imagined.
I had to find a way to trust my own ideas and find my voice.
And I had to find my way of sharing my ideas, not just the ideas of others on the page and in conversation.
I am creating this new blog as a space where I hope to help you, the creative and reluctant storyteller, to trust yourself so you can share your stories, too.
I want to help more people share their stories.
I feel it is important that the world hears from diverse voices and different perspectives.
As we hear from our fellow humans we grow as people. We understand ourselves better. We understand the workings of the world better. We learn. We empathize. We become inspired. We love.
I believe that well told stories can break through the current attention barrier and bridge gaps in understanding others.
Yet, many people with the most powerful stories to share are reluctant to share their stories.
What I learned about the power of stories from the Milwaukee Museum -
Stories can be told in simple and unexpected ways.
When I was a child one of the most magical places for me was the Milwaukee Museum. The museum was full of life size dioramas that let you walk through different parts of history.
They also had an exhibition that let one peek inside houses from around the world and imagine how people lived. From the modest 19th Century Swiss house and it’s hard-carved furniture to the minimal Japanese dining room with cushions set directly on the floor.
These differences fascinated me.
I was especially interested in Asia.
In the 1980s the news portrayed the Japanese as enemies of the US because their auto industry was beating the US and “putting workers out of jobs.” The public narrative blamed the Japanese, not the US companies who failed to respond to market demands.
My memory of that quiet Japanese dining room got me interested in looking beyond the news.
In fact, I decided to study the Japanese language. I met a wonderful Japanese family through a language exchange program at the university where I was studying and a year later I moved to Japan to continue my language and cultural study.
You might say, the image of the Japanese house in that diorama changed my life.
How does a diorama relates to story?
To me, a story is a set of analogies that communicate an idea in way that allows another person to it enter a new imagination.
The story of a dining room in the diorama led me to imagine that in Japan there was a sense of calm and peace and simplicity. This was a very different story than the one I read about in the papers.
If you are doing something creative, you are doing something that deserves a voice.
Your work and your stories have the power to change lives.
This is where story comes in.
You have to let people imagine the world as you see it.
The words you share about your work lets you expand your reach. The words get people to learn about your creative project, to take the time show up at your performance or workshop, to write about you in the press, to share about your ideas on social media.
Oddly enough, it takes time to understand our own story.
We can be doing our work for years and yet we do not know why we are doing it. We don’t know what our work means to ourselves, let alone what meaning we want to share with others.
Getting to the core of your story, shedding the ideas of what others expect to hear or how you need to express yourself can feel uncomfortable or awkward.
It requires that you dig deep and understand who you are, who you want to speak to and what you want to bring to the world.
In the blog I’ll be sharing ideas about:
Finding Your Voice -
lessons learned along the journey to share stories, and the importance of making meaning and minding the imagination
Collective Storytelling -
ideas and experiences with sharing collective stories –moving beyond the hero’s journey to stories of collective contribution
Curating Ideas –
the role of curation - how ideas are sifted, collected and communicated in the wider public sphere through mechanisms like galleries, public spaces and new media platforms
Listening Closely –
what it means to listen closely and how that changes the stories we tell ourselves and others; how listening with curiosity can create more empathy and kindness
As creatives, we all find ourselves bumping up against assumptions about the world that we want to change.
Maybe we want to make a small change.
We see a possibility to color with a different shade.
Or maybe we want to make a big change.
We want to change a dialogue the ways of seeing a certain group of people.
In a way, all creative acts are about shifting a collective narrative. It is a collective act which takes us as creators, collaborators, curators, and audience. But to begin, we need to share our voices and our stories.