how to tell stories (and live life)

Re-reading some tales of Eastern Europe collected by Dan Keding, I love what he wrote as an afterword:

Passion and drama, wisdom and humour, are all present in these stories. When you tell these tales, trust them to take you and your listeners to that special place where the story finds its voice. Let the story travel through you to your audience; don’t push the story or force it; don’t feel that the story needs you to be overly dramatic or athletic; don’t change the truth of your story to make it ‘better’. Generations and the ages have already done your editing for you. You want your audience to be impressed not with your acting ability, but with the story, to take it home with them.

Remember, the tale will be around long after you’re gone. What the story needs from you is for you to allow it to pass through you and into the hearts and imaginations of your audience. Be gentle and honest with these tales, and you will become part of an unbroken chain that runs through the history of these proud and beautiful people.

‘Stories of hope and spirit: folk tales from Eastern Europe’
Dan Keding, August House, 2004

Although he is referring to particular stories, I think that any stories, including our personal tales, deserve this kind of honouring. Of course, we will use our particular talents in storytelling–just as writers have a particular voice, each teller has a unique style and special gifts. One storyteller I know is a master of characterisation. He can pick up and drop characters instantly and it’s like watching a chameleon with the capacity to take on any colour in the spectrum at will. Another woman I know always tells with such warmth and innocence that you are effortlessly drawn into her imagination. Yet what makes a story work most strongly is a kind of unforced quality that comes when we are truly serving the story, not for our own kudos or as a display of technical skills but so that the story becomes the message. We give ourselves to the story so that our listeners may receive the gift of the story, uniquely offered through the medium of our full self.

We also have our particular obstacles: self-c0nsciousness, perfectionism, fear, and terror. Yet, we can also learn to recognise these emotions and characteristics, and by acknowledging them, they are much less able to obstruct us.

Lately I’ve been thinking and writing about the inner strength that such service and acknowledgment requires, so that we are not overwhelmed by self-consciousness or fear but have met these parts of ourselves, recognised them, and know that we don’t have to react to them. So that we are aware of our gifts and talents and can serve them well. It’s up to us to find the way to cultivate this inner strength so that we can meet our selves honestly. When we do, our stories, our selves, go a little more freely into the world.