Writing is the most powerful of all professions. Everyone needs us. And I do mean everyone. Readers need us to entertain them and transport them from the challenges of their daily lives. Businesses need us to describe what they do in compelling language that helps sell their product or service. Children need stories to help cement their learning and teach them about life. Even the storytellers need the stories and creativity that flow through their veins. Stories provide writers with joy and hope and respite from dreary everyday life things like pandemics.
Research has proven that oral storytelling particularly assists with the development of social and emotional abilities, cognitive growth, and language skills in babies. It's why we see so many ads telling us to talk, sing and read to our children. Spoken stories are good for our mental health. (Can anyone say audiobooks?)
Whether it's the Hawaiian hula, which tells a story through dance, or the oral stories that were passed down around the fire, the art of telling stories is a tradition long-honored. The Irish seanchaí were welcomed everywhere and provided room and board for the gift of their stories. The troubadours, or minstrels, of the Middle Ages were honored members of the royal courts. The ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop, is still famous today for his fables.
Interesting read: How stories are told around the world.
Our creativity can be a blessing and a curse (often at the same time), but most of all it is a gift with far-reaching power. Earlier this week, Barbara Linn Probst wrote a post sharing the tangible ways her debut book affected two peoples' lives. One of the people who wrote to her credited the book with saving her life.
Story is always there, underneath everything that resonates and engages with others. Lisa Cron has made a career from helping writers discover the power of story and showing them how to tap into it. She's quoted in this Jerry Jenkins piece, explaining how and why story is the most important element of any story.
What grabs readers isn’t beautiful writing, a rip-roaring plot, or surface drama; what grabs readers is what gives those things their meaning and power: the story itself.- Lisa Cron
Lisa and Donald Maass said this in an article at Writer Unboxed:
"When it comes to crafting a compelling story, a writer’s most important job is to relentlessly ask 'Why?, the better to drill down to the real reason behind every action the protagonist takes. After all, isn’t that what we continually do in real life: wonder why things happen, largely so we can figure out what the heck to do about them?"
A sampling of great WITS posts from Lisa Cron:
In the business world, Simon Sinek has made the question of "Why" famous with his TED talk on the subject. Leaders everywhere are "finding their Why" and stuggling to put those concepts into words.
(I highly recommend you spend the five minutes on this video!)
There has never been a better time to make a living as a storyteller. Brand-driven storytelling is killing it in the marketplace these days with luminaries like Seth Godin saying, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”
Think about that from a writer's perspective for a moment.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”
Yes, this applies to our stories, but it also speaks to how we brand ourselves as authorpreneurs. Somewhere in your personal bios, WHY you write or why you write WHAT you write needs to be included. That story forms the basis for how readers will relate to you. I remember the "how I got started writing story" from every author I've ever heard speak, even if I've never read a single book of theirs.
Like everyone else, I'm more likely to pick up an author's books if I like them and their story. Our personal stories help our hard work (aka our books) jump into readers' hands.
Just as Colleen Story's post last week illustrated that our author photo tells a story about us, so does our bio. These quick visuals of us are evaluated in the six-second glance people give anything new on the internet. Yes, you heard me. Six. Seconds. That's all the time we get to make that first impression, so it better be easy to see who we are with a photo, a tagline, a catchy phrase.
Remember: stories change lives and minds and buying decisions. This means that you, my storytelling friend, are one of the most powerful beings in the world.
“Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. In the information age, the knowledge economy, you are only as valuable as your ideas. Story is the means by which we transfer those ideas to one another. Your ability to package your ideas with emotion, context and relevancy is the one skill that will make you more valuable in the next decade. Storytelling is the act of framing an idea as a narrative to inform, illuminate and inspire.”
What are the details that make up your story?
Have you ever spent time thinking about your own personal "Why?" Do you struggle to write your own personal profile, mission statement, tagline, bio in a meaningful way? Share it down in the comments if you want Jenny to give it an edit! (Limit to two paragraphs please.)
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By day, Jenny provides corporate communications and LinkedIn advice for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction, and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
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