Storytellers, Work With What You’ve Got

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

When I told jokes as a kid, I began with the punchline.

Then I proceeded to explain why the joke was funny.

The person who laughed the most at my jokes was me.

Is that because no one else laughed when I told a joke?

Yes, it’s because the way I told jokes, they weren’t funny.

I was that way with stories as well. I told stories all out of order.

“And that’s why he had to lose his hand fighting against Darth Vader, because . . . .”

The concept of a story was actually overwhelming for me. I just didn’t know how people did it — how did they manage to keep all that stuff in their heads? And how did they know what came first?

It would be hard to say that I was a born storyteller. I could barely convey a sequence of events without getting lost in tangents.

I had to try really hard, read a lot, and study how other people did it.

I didn’t know how to string the pieces together. I thought of stories in a very visual way. To me they had sizes and shapes. I wanted to show the coolest part first.

It wasn’t even that I was misremembering the stories. I just didn’t know why they needed to be told in order.

I was not dyslexic, but it strikes me that this seems like a type of dyslexia.

I had to watch movies with careful attention because habitually I didn’t really follow storylines.

By and large, what I loved were the spaces evoked by different stories. The feel of the characters, the flavors and textures of the world. The moods and styling of the settings and scenes.

It has been helpful to study story structure and various theories on plot, but the biggest game-changer for me comes from looking at actual stories and either emulating them or feeling into how they do what they do.

Another pivotal shift for me was moving to a visceral engagement with stories. Really feeling things rather than merely thinking about them or trying to grasp them with the mind and remember them verbatim.

I share all this to add my voice to the sea of voices who offer a similar wisdom: work with what you’ve got. If something is hard for you, that doesn’t mean you have to be disqualified from giving it your absolute best.

And the truth is, when anyone gives something their absolute best, the world better watch out.

It might not feel natural, but you never know — maybe your unique challenges give you the opportunity to add something truly fantastic to what is already out there. Maybe the way you tell a story is different from anyone else. Who is to say that should be a bad thing?

The more everyone feels into what they truly want and gives it their all, the more the world becomes sane and livable.

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