What are we? We’re storytellers. Okay, okay, I get it, please don’t groan! Just hear me out for a second.
As storytellers, we don’t write blankly without reason. We don’t write for the sake of being seen by a few eyeballs, or for the ticking of views on a status bar. The art of writing is so much more complex than that. We write to tell stories, to captivate people, to make people feel something they hadn’t before. Sure, a writer knows how to put words together on a page, but a storyteller knows how to spur an emotional reaction with those words.
Yes, technically I am a writer—I am writing all of this right now, after all— but the type of writing I do is so much more than just scribbling words onto a page (or typing with my thumbs while crammed on the bus). Telling stories is a fundamental part of being human — it’s followed us for thousands of years since the first cavemen — and cavewomen—existed. You know those old drawings you’ve seen on cave walls? They told stories of fierce animals lurking in the night, omniscient spirits, and tales of Gods. We’ve told stories since before we could speak. Clearly, words aren’t required to tell a riveting story. So, if we don’t need words, what else is there?
Animation, Film, Music, Photography… The list goes on and on.
1) I don't write for me.
I write for my audience, whether it’s 5, 10, or 20,000 people. I write to tell stories that are important to me, and that I feel people should hear as well. The stories I love to tell most are the hard ones. These are the ones that go against the grain, that make the reader question their beliefs, that slowly draw them in with enticing scenarios, then spark conflict against those beliefs every step of the way.
Some might call that provocative, some may even say it’s political, but I call it storytelling.
For those who know me, you know my slogan is “Let’s Educate the World”. I take this very seriously in all of my content, because I want everyone on this Earth to live in peace and harmony. Ambitious, I know, but this is what storytelling means to me — to educate people on how the world thinks. When we understand one another, we sympathize more, and we stop thinking of each other merely as different. Difference sparks prejudice, then stereotyping, then racism, then crime. When we see people by their differences, we’re quick to judge, but when we see people by their similarities, we sympathize and become closer.
See how important it is to be a storyteller? If we can change people’s perceptions of one another, the whole world can be a better place.
“Thoughtful Storytelling” is what I call writing with a purpose, with clearly set goals, and with a mission to accomplish by posting each blog post, article, or book.
For example, this very article is thoughtful storytelling.
2) Why am I writing this article now? What purpose does it fulfill?
I believe that writing is merely one colour in an artist’s creative storytelling palette. Writing on its own is merely a skill—albeit an important one!—but storytelling uses that skill alongside many others to create an experience.
Saying I’m a “writer” limits the full extent of my abilities. It highlights one specific aspect of a greater skill.
Labelling myself as a “storyteller” encompasses the full creative process —brainstorming, crafting plot, psychoanalysis, research, writing, editing, marketing, and selling a story.
This specific article is meant to create a distinction between writing and storytelling. It pushes to de-stigmatize the childlike, fictional view of storytelling as a career, and re-orient it as something prized, something desirable, and something respectable.
I want to be able to tell people I’m a storyteller without them thinking I sit in a library and read children’s books all day to a circle of infants. (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
If you’re a writer—and if you’re on Vocal, I assume that you are—then I hope this opened your eyes to the possibilities that writing gives you. Don’t think of writing as the end goal, think of it as a gear in a wildly churning storytelling machine. If you’re not a writer, but you create experiences for other people using art, music, technology, film, or any creative medium, then you’re still a storyteller.
And being a storyteller is a damn good skill to have.
3) WHY is storytelling so important?
Marketing is all about telling stories. Look at any Instagram campaign or art installation, and typically the product is telling a story. A Bud Light commercial can talk about camping with the boys, swimming in the ocean, enjoying beer by the fire, and its narrative gives you this perception that if you’re going to the cottage, you should buy Bud Light for the trip.
Bud light further tells a story with short phrases like “Fun”, “Good Times”, and “Good Beer” to connect its product with an incentivizing story. Who wouldn’t want to have fun with their friends on a warm summer eve? They created a story that you were willing to listen to, and they’re offering a way to improve that experience with their product.
Storytelling is what connects ideas in our minds. It plays off common experiences and introduces foreign ones to show how they work together, like Bud Light and cottaging. (Disclaimer: I can 100% assure you this is not an endorsement for Bud Light)
Stories shape who we are and change what we believe we can do.
If you read a book about a haggard, 30-something guy who quit his 9-to-5 to become a digital nomad, and you always dreamed of escaping to travel and work yourself, then you might be more motivated to follow in that guy’s footsteps after hearing his story. Consequently, if you hear stories of people losing their creative bug and slipping into mundane office work for the rest of their sad, boring lives, then you may fall into that trap yourself.
As you can see, the conclusion is simple. Stories shape people’s lives.
If you’re still wondering, what’s the big deal with being a storyteller?
There’s your answer.