“I have an idea for a book I want to write.”
It was Thanksgiving, and the family was all together. My dad and brother were in the room – both writers like me – and I wanted to share my great story idea.
“A boy grows up with an inventive father. The dad’s always creating new contraptions – kind of like a wacky Willy Wonka character. But one day, the dad finds out his father died. He’s thrust into a depression, and the boy has to figure out how to relate to his dad. All seems lost until one day the dad discovers a treasure map…”
“Hold on,” my brother interrupted. “What’s the inciting incident in this story?”
My frustration manifested tight lips and a red face. “Just. Uh. Just listen to the story.
Let’s talk for a second about stories, shall we? More specifically, let’s talk about YOUR story. Although I don’t know what it is, I know it’s incredibly personal. Depending on your age, it may be a long story ... Or maybe it’s been pretty short. Many might know your story. Or you may have kept it hidden and only shared it with a few. I also know that your story has involved strength. That’s right. I guarantee it’s taken some amount of strength to get to where you’re at. (And you’re here, so it’s not over yet!) But have you identified that strength and used it to share your story with others? If not… Where do we start?
The most terrifying people in the world are 7th & 8th graders. I know this from first-hand experience because I used to teach 7th & 8th grade band. Teaching 60+ kids in your classroom at once after handing them noisemakers is like a scene out of Hurt Locker. One stray fart noise and it’s all over.
As a band director, one of my jobs (other than counselor, disciplinarian, parent, teacher, psychologist, custodian, psychic, doctor) was to listen and respond to what I heard the band play. In order to respond with constructive feedback I had to listen obsessively. My ear would be tuned in to every note, rhythm, instrument group & specific student.
In storytelling, I’ve found that there’s often a moment of truth at the end of an interview. For me, it used to be a moment of panic.
I'd go out to film someone’s story without much interview prep beforehand. I'd show up with a few questions handy just in case, but most of my attention went to figuring out gear and filming locations.
We’d arrive, set up, fine-tune our shots, and start rolling. I’d ask the person to share their story. I’d keep the conversation moving forward, making sure everyone was engaged. But my head was somewhere else. "How’s the light? Is that a plane flying overhead? This guy’s a talker. Oh they’ve got dogs, fantastic."
Most of the time, I was half-following a story I was half-familiar with, assuming we'd figure it out in post. Then suddenly, we'd arrive at the end of their story. And I had to make the call. Are we good? Should we go back and cover something again, or can we wrap up and pack down?
We spend a lot of time talking about why stories matter. We’re told that storytelling is one of—if not the most effective means of communication. There’s something special about connecting with a story that causes us to see things differently, or to feel less alone in our own story. But in order for us to get to this place of connection, a story has to be heard. Someone has to start. Someone has to go first.
What if that person was you?