Rachel and I plopped down our picnic basket. It was late in the day but we finally made it. By now the sun was already disappearing in shimmering shafts between the leaves and branches of the surrounding redwoods.
Even though we had planned on coming to this storytelling festival, both of us got wrapped up in our own "to do" lists before finally driving out. It was only 20 or so minutes across the Bay Bridge of San Francisco, but that didn't matter. For years I didn't understand why crossing the bridge was such huge deal for city dwellers, but now I was one of them and finally "got it."
Storytelling - Shared Experience of Creativity
Still here we were - spreading out a blanket and diving into goodies picked up from Trader Joe's.. prosciutto, cheese, grapes and obligatory baguette (Acme, of course)
I didn't know what to expect. Part of me pictured a bunch of quirky characters dressed in medieval jester costumes making up some tall tales with Paul Bunyan flavors.
Instead, these were very average looking folks up on a makeshift stage of some kind throughout the recreational area. Once we paid for entry into the parking area, it was "all you can eat" listening - at least until the park closed or the mosquitoes sucked us dry, whichever came first.
No, there were no exaggerated stories - although several of the stories were hard to believe. Tales of travel misadventures or routine errands gone astray.. very "real" or "normal" things that we could identify with.
So, I started learning how often storytelling isn't about making stuff up - it's about connecting with your audience and taking them on a journey with you.
Power of Storytelling in Business
Business doesn’t exist without selling, and copywriting uses storytelling to sell. We identify with the hero in the ad because the savvy advertiser speaks our language and tells the story of our biggest challenge. It's hypnotic and captivating.
Once again we connect with the journey that the business has creatively taken us on. When the big reveal happens, we see that their product or service is just what we've been looking for.
The Mad Men era shows how much power storytelling has. It can used just as easily good, as less benevolent purposes.
Storytelling in Your Art
When I dance Argentine tango, others watching me have told me that it's like I'm telling a story through movement. Ironically, I don't really understand much Spanish - much less Argentine Spanish. But I feel the stories that the songs are telling through the music and emotions conveyed by the singers.
You "dance your life" - bringing both struggles and triumphs into your steps inspired by songs that tell of lost loves, romantic bliss or heartbreaking tragedy.
Even when I hosted events as a DJ at Cellspace, I would create an evening with a story created by the song groups called tandas. On nights when we hosted events with a story like "beach party tango," these would always draw the biggest crowds.
Storytelling in Relationships
Whether it's dating or friendship, getting to know someone really comes down to asking - "what's your story?" Even that typical business networking question, "what do you do?" is really a version of "what's your story?"
That gal working at Starbucks turns out to actually be the lead vocalist of a girl band that does covers of the Chrissy Hynes and the Pretenders - now that's a story we want to learn more about..
Of course, we don't always feel we have the time or attention in this harried world to listen to others' story. That's why the greatest gift we can share is giving someone your undivided attention and caring about their story.
Connecting the Dots with Storytelling
Since Biblical times storytellers have drawn us into experiences with tales. They grab our attention, and we don't want them to let go. Stories grip us like a trance and stay with us because they're memorable. The real power is how they inspire curiosity, and we want to learn more.
If creativity is how we connect the dots, then storytelling is the picture created by these connections.
"..go where there is no path and leave a trail.." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes it amazes me how many stories walk among us. It's said that there are "no new stories - only the same ones told again and again." Sure, "the hooker with a heart of gold" sounds so trite but skillful storytelling captures our imagination.
So what's your story? How does it inspire your own creativity?
For more on curiosity and storytelling visit my LinkedIn post..
Here's a few of my YouTube comments..