This has to be the “most asked” question of tellers new to the craft. “Where do I find stories to tell?” While I understand the dilemma, it is still a bit amusing to hear this question as it is a “forest for the trees” issue.
First, let me start by saying this: Stories are ubiquitous. They are not stagnant. They have wings and if you aren’t paying close attention you will surely miss them.
I was once asked what makes a storyteller an excellent teller. I remember my response like it was yesterday. “The teller must be a good listener.” I don’t mean listening only with your ears, no, that’s for novices. I mean listening as an awareness of life and life’s music (activity). You see, for all of our technological advances and cutting edge theories, we often fail to recognize that which is right in front of us. A teller is not afforded the luxury of simply hearing things. No, a teller must be tuned in to her environment and recognize how words are exchanged like currency, the dance between moving bodies boarding and getting off of a bus, the nuances of the person dining and reading a paper, etc. These are all stories. Whether they develop into mythology or legend is up to the imagination of the teller, but beneath it all there must be a purpose for the story’s development.
I know I know … I’ve been told that my advice is often very unconventional but something you should realize is that, this advice is not meant for everyone. This advice is meant for that soul whose creative energies are agitated by conventionality. There are those with whom these words will have immediate resonance. And then they are many that are still scratching their heads from a previous post that I published.
So, where do you find your stories young bard? You find them inside of yourself, outside of yourself and everywhere in between. Learn to listen in a more refined way. Take time to listen in a more refined way. Stories are like little children who dance in front of the television when their parents are trying to watch a show. They long to be acknowledged but we tend to not recognize them because our thoughts are trapped by extraneous noise (bill paying, career trajectories, child rearing, car repairs, etc.).
Now that I’ve taken you completely to the edge of the land of the metaphysician, allow me to draw you back a little.
There is another tool in the professional storyteller’s arsenal that is little talked about. It is often whispered amongst ourselves in the dark corners of cafés or workshops. It is a little know secret that I dare to share with you here and now.
One of the things you must do, that will set apart from the rest of the herd is “read.”
Yes, I said it. Read! I’ll say it again, read! I know that I will suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune from my sisters and brethren in the storytelling universe for revealing these ancient secrets but I must exercise truth.
You must read, read, read and, when you have grown thoroughly exhausted of reading, well, then read some more. By reading I don’t mean viewing the words of a page, I mean that the words you read must engage your emotional being. If you do not laugh, cry or gasp when you read then you are not reading. If the words of the page that you are reading do not resonate with you or do not give you an adrenaline rush, then you need to change material.
Through reading you will discover not only stories, but things about yourself that other forms of introspection cannot give you.
If you follow these paths toward discovery, then you will not need to find stories, they will find you.
“Dooni dooni kononi bè nyaga da.”