July 17, 2014

Defining “Storyteller”

I used to think that being a storyteller involved a lot of creativity: eloquent insights shared in embellished tones before an audience that nodded their heads affirmatively and had goose bumps spread across their skin.

But, I’m learning that’s not true.

Effective and meaningful storytelling doesn’t begin with heaps of creativity, and it doesn’t always lead to such gratifying reactions from an audience. Instead, it begins when someone’s willing to keep quiet long enough to listen to the world around them.

Stillness and silence are prerequisites to hearing more than just our internal dialogue. At this very moment, a story is happening all around you, but can you hear it? A storyteller is someone willing to be told something first.

Storytellers will inevitably ask themselves:

Am I going to be the one who observes?

Or, am I going to contribute my own drama?

This year, I’ve been challenged a lot, as I’ve found myself stuck between acting as a storyteller and being the one living a story. It’s been tempting to write myself into the script. But the storytellers who I admire most are those who serve their audience with a selfless disregard for their own opinions and perspectives. These storytellers have an ability to zoom out of their own heads and notice a patchwork pattern unfolding, like viewing earth from an airplane window.

I’m learning that storytelling is a sacrificial artform. It necessitates a denial of self in service to the greater narrative at hand.

Storytellers must become flexible, like interpersonal gymnasts, balancing conversationally between what’s plain to see and what lies below the surface.

We must wait, listen, and anticipate that the most honest story will be revealed to those who don’t rush to read the conclusion, but patiently allow it to unfold.

At Misfit, I’ve been given the opportunity to document the lives of men and women who are pursuing their hopes with tenacious focus and intention. These people are artists, creatives, poets, authors, entrepreneurs, and all-around inspiring human beings within the global Misfit community. These are the kind of people who greet their demons in the morning and take them for a walk before challenging them to a sparring match in the afternoon. Storytelling, in this setting, has been a documentation of people’s confrontation with the truest parts of their existence.

So, what am I learning at Ei?

With much gratitude and fear, I am becoming a storyteller; one that documents life in its raw and hopeful forms (with an occasional marketing piece thrown in). I’m learning to listen to the world and let people tell their stories in their own words. I’m the scribe.

Thanks for reading,


PS: You can hear, read, and see some of my stories told for Misfit over at their blog.

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