Storytelling Creates Powerful Content
Storytelling Versus Writing
When I was young, I used to secretly love making people cry. I'd write stories for my mom or dad and secretly hope that I would see tears fall. When they did, I'd feel a sense of power that normally, as a very shy child, I didn't feel. You could say that I came to my present career as a writer by wanting to make people cry.
Later, that grew to making people laugh and scaring people. I saw the power of a good story early on.
Recently, some parents asked me to teach a "Creative Writing" class to a group of kids aged 6 to 14. They were broken up into groups of three classes and I would teach all day once a week. The other classes the kids were taking that day included hula hoop, wet felting and a course on making herbal remedies.
At the end of the 4-week session, the teachers would be told if the kids wanted to continue in that class for another 4-week session, or move on to another course, such as Capoeira.
Competition was fierce, in other words.
I remembered my early beginnings and requested a change in the course name from "Creative Writing" to "Storytelling". People barely noticed the change, but I had a secret. I knew the importance of words.
Storytelling became a class where each student was asked to scare me, or make me laugh or cry each week.
My class of young teens would vie for who could scare me more or make me laugh the hardest. When we were writing, the kids insisted on absolute silence. One girl in particular would get a wry smile as she wrote page after page. The kids occasionally fought for who could read next. Classes ran overtime each week as parents waited patiently for their kids (who hated writing) to finish their stories.
What I had done was give an incredible amount of power to young children.
So my message is this: What is your story?
When you sit down at your blank screen, or blank page, think about your story. Who are you? Why do you do what you do? (Wdydwyd is a project of Tony Deifell, a friend.) Why in the world would your audience care?
You don't need your audience to cry, necessarily. But you want them to do something, and often, emotion is a powerful vein to tap when getting someone to do something.
With power comes great responsibility. Years of advertisers manipulating children (and adults) through appealing to base emotions leaves me feeling a bit sick to my stomach, honestly.
Of course storytelling is powerful. Admen have known this for decades.
Storytelling is a tool. A powerful tool, for both good and evil. Storytelling creates context; storytelling gives us heroes. Storytelling gives us meaning.
I'm willing to bet that, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have a story to tell. The best stories move us in more than one way - We laugh and cry. We are afraid, but move into anger then relief. And the very best storytellers can tell the same story many ways, to elicit a different response from a different audience.
But at the very core, story is personal. And only you know your story.
So when you sit down to "create content", think about your story. Think about your audience. How will you move them with your words? How will you touch their hearts today?
In the end, your goal can be simple. Empowering one girl who had never written before to begin her first novel was enough for me.
If you're interested in learning more about the power of storytelling, this video by Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University is a great place to start: