When I made storytelling my profession, particularly when the stories I was telling were drawn entirely from my own life, my relationship to the past began to change. It became malleable, a collection of events, conversations, details, and images to be shaped or discarded for the purposes of a story I wanted to tell today. Nothing that happened could be sacred, could be more important than the story itself. All that mattered was the gift I hoped it would give, which was always to help me see the world I live in now more clearly.
It also changed my relationship to the stories other people tell me about themselves. Every story is a version of the truth. Every storyteller must leave things out, shave some facts, accentuate others. Where the storyteller’s memory fails, their imagination races in to color rooms and invent dialogue. For this reason, I know the stories I hear tell me more about what the storyteller believes about life and themselves and what matters most to them right now than as a reliable record of the past.
Which is just fine with me. Storytelling has also taught me to care less and less about the past. It’s meaningless except as source material. I can’t live in the past, try as I have from time to time to do so. All I can live in is a story I’m telling myself about that past. No matter how good that story may be, it’s but a fragment of what actually happened, of the wholeness that was life at that time. Meanwhile, all of life, every breathing, thinking, sleeping, singing, swaying, hopping, writing, reading molecule of it lives around me in the here and now.
That’s more than I can possibly perceive at one time. So I tell stories. The best ones offer more than the few strands of life pulled to weave that tale. The space between the cultivated details of every story serves as a kind of mirror. What is reflected back belongs to whoever looks into it, a view into the viewer who caught a glimpse of himself in someone else’s life.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com