Thursday, October 08, 2009

Explaining the Innate?

I periodically face a struggle. Several times each year I am asked to teach a class, write an article or simply talk about the art of storytelling. I've even had some limited interest from some folks who want me write a book on the topic. I'd love to do that. Here's the rub: I don't really know much about how I actually tell stories. I've read a few books, but they didn't really help me much. I have never taken a class on storytelling. Everything I do or know is completely innate. The one exception might be my improv and acting training which bleeds through at some level.

I wonder if anyone out there has made this jump. I think about artists or musicians who become teachers of art and music. How did you do that? My storytelling process begins and ends with staring at a wall for an hour, then telling a story. In some ways it feels like trying to teach someone to be 6'2 with brown hair and a hot wife. It's just who I am...not what I purposely decided to become.

Any advice? How do you teach people to do something you don't know how you do yourself? Or maybe, how do you learn how you do something that nobody ever taught you to do?

If you help me, I'll dedicate the book to you :)

9 comments:

Sue said...

Hey, Joe. I would say you are off to a fine start; just write what you know, from your heart. I've also faced the question of "how do you teach what you yourself have never been taught?" For example, I used to give singing/keyboard lessons. When I was first approached about doing it, I thought, "This is crazy; I play by ear, and singing is just something I've always done; I have no idea how to teach it!" And I think sometimes, that's what makes a great teacher; someone who learns as they teach. Like the saying that goes "God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called." I love that, because it is so me. I know I am qualified by man's ideals, to not do much of anything; yet I know there is a call of God on my life, and He will bring forth out of me that which he has placed within me, when I take that first step of faith. The same for you; God has placed talents and abilities in you that you just need to step out in faith, and use. Just like the first time you preached, or did stand up, you might have thought "uh oh; I don't know how this is going to go" yet look at you now. Everything gets better with experience, which only comes when we take that first step. And by the way, you have already taken that first step with the writing; don't you realize that? Your blog, everytime you write out notes to teach, it's all training for the next big thing; your book! Just that people will read your words, instead of just hearing them. So go ahead, take that step of faith, use that talent, and watch God multiply it! God bless!!~Sue Butler

Sue said...

lol sorry, forgot to say that just the way you asked for help was a story in itself; and cutos on the plug to your "hot wife"; brownie points! lol

Micah said...

Can't answer your question directly. However, here's two things:

1. Telling stories makes it easier to tell stories. There are a lot of stories I have to tell several times before I can actually figure out what makes the story come across to the audience. Maybe eventually I'll magically do this without practice, but for now I'm consistently surprised at the things that really make stories work... little details, order of introductions, clever quips, etc.

2. Listening to stories makes it easier to tell stories. It helps that our faith is full of stories, but I'm a story junkie. The Moth podcast, cheap novels, late-night conversations, etc. The more stories I'm around, the easier it is for me to tell good stories.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Hi Joe,
Your telling stories paints pictures in my head. You make mere words alive and breathe by how you draw on present day experiences and weave them into the whole picture. Whether you take the time to write a book or not, I know you will always keep telling stories. It's who you are.

Michael Joseph Sharp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Here's how I teach music: I don't know.

Sandra said...

You just wrote that you learned very little from the few books you read on the subject - maybe a book isn't the medium to use. For some strange reason I see you in a huge room where all four walls are giant white boards, your students (or whatever you want to call them) sit in the middle and it is just one giant brainstorming session on a chosen topic (your story idea). By the time you are done the walls are filled and everyone in the room has taken an active part in telling the story. They would all get a chance to stare at the "white wall" with you. I always take more away from a learning experience when I am thrust into it - without warning.

Ruth said...

Seems like you're describing your gift as flowing out of who God has made you, and from what I've seen of your story-telling at VCC: being in the moment with Him ~ whatever you're hearing from Him where you are or what you're called to. Storytelling coming out of genuineness of being you. I don't know if you can teach that, but seems like it's key to being the kind of Jesus-fueled story-teller you have come to be.

Rondi said...

It's like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull said, "You teach best what you most need to learn."