This summer, I had considerable opportunity to apply Storyteller Uprising principles to real-world organizational communication challenges. It was great to take my thought-process for a test spin to see what resonated. It also inspired me to add to the book (it’s getting fatter and more expensive!), primarily around how to concretely engage communities with story. But I’ve found that even as more organizations seek to implement storytelling as communication strategy, I need to impress upon them that this is primarily a creative process. As with all artistic endeavors, you need to practice, fail, suffer, lose confidence, take risks, persevere. This is not communicate-by-numbers.
With that in mind, I concluded with a chapter on “Dark Nights of the Soul (and Helping Hands).” Here’s an excerpt.
“I’ve taught storytelling through a ten-week class, and even then, I knew my students were just getting started. The creation of something new is not meant to be easy. When I wish to impress this upon anyone who wishes to become a more public storyteller, I like to refer to one of my own favorite storytellers, author and journalist George Orwell. The author of classics such as 1984 and Animal Farm concluded his famous 1946 essay Why I Write, with some fairly daunting words:
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed.”
There is a strong intangible catalyst to want to create a story. At first, it’s a heady thing to believe that we can rise above the mundane and bring a new, compelling idea into the world. The beginning is often easy. It’s that indefinable, muddle of the middle that causes such difficulty, when confidence wears thin and we’re no longer sure of the creative direction that we’ve chosen.
The larger lesson was clear. We can try and plan our direction to the smallest possible detail before setting out on the journey – or creating a story. But in this digital age, when communication is fluid, and so many people are experimenting, often the best thing to do is to simply get in the car, take your hands off the wheel, keep your eyes on the road, and hit the gas. As we discovered, the universe has unusual ways of assisting those who decide to engage in creative pursuits.
We did our best to research and plan the best foreseeable outcome for Independent America for nearly a year. But after failing to convince any large media institution of the idea’s worth, we finally listened to our friends and family who had been prodding us on to just get out there and do it. They gave us money, ideas and crucial moral support. Just as Dan Savage had learned with It Gets Better, we really didn’t have to wait for institutional approval. The idea was good, we believed in it passionately, and we had the tools and time at our disposal. We would soon discover that the road – and the community that would inspire us—would take us the rest of the way.”
[p.s. Both the Kindle and printed editions have now been updated for sale, as well as the free PDF. The rest will happen soon. If you’ve purchased a previous Kindle version, contact me and I’ll send you the free updated file).