"I write first to heal myself, then edit to be misunderstood.”
What are you always writing? Why are you always writing?
As a child and later on in life as an adult this was often a question I was asked. My answer is more of a disappointment than a well-thought-out philosophical reply.
Because writing saved me.
Years ago I went through a traumatic breakup. The kind that if you aren't careful, it can damage you for life. The details of which I rarely share. But what kept me sane and awarded me the gift of hope was the space between the pen and paper or with modern technology my fingertips and the screen. I harnessed the power of storytelling and wrote an entire novel. I poured everything into that piece of work and a few too many glasses of Merlot for myself along the way. But I worked through the anger, pain, guilt, shame, pity and self-doubt in a pure, and honest way, something I could never have done in a shrink's office. I know I must sound weird to someone who isn't a writer or creative. But being able to articulate and verbalise what I felt into a story helped shift something for me.
I am privileged that I get to live my dream and tell stories for a living. Whether that be when I’m writing a press release, media statement, or producing a magazine what I’m doing is communicating emotion and message. How I tell that story makes a difference to my audience and ultimately it's why the desired effect is achieved.
What telling my own story taught me
Empathy: I discovered what it meant to really put my feet into someone else shoes. Being a storyteller means that my job is to narrate rather than judge, to report more than offer an opinion. I’ve taken bias off the table once all twice because it would cloud my judgement.
How to develop characters: Writing multi-dimensional personalities is often a challenge. She has to be portrayed as strong, independent, glamorous but also vulnerable and kind. Developing personas is a fundamental skill in marketing, but it is also at the core of character development. People relate with people. Whether that be the protagonist or the villain, an element of human connection makes a difference.
Telling our stories is where our power lies: There is power in standing up and speaking one’s truth. But for businesses and organisations being able to articulate your story clearly in a way that connects with your customers and competitors where a brand means more than a logo. Companies should be courageous about what their story is and tell it in a compelling people-centric way, regardless of whether that story is an admission of guilt or failure.
You are being trusted: Real lives are lost, families are torn apart, and there is often a pain in people’s lives when they entrust us with their story. Being able to handle this sensitively and safely is more important than the adjectives and comma placements.
So let’s all tell more and better stories for ourselves, our businesses and our audiences.
Alive with Ideas is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to explore storytelling as a communications professional.