What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? – Audre Lorde, The Transformation
What I read this weekend: I’ve experienced the power of great storytelling in all of its forms: from exceptional journalism that broke my heart and opened my eyes wide, poetry that spoke intimately to my consciousness, to the chic Glossier ad that sold me the promise of feeling chic, effortless, and free when you sport skin as smooth as a baby’s ass.
I wish I could tell good stories. I suck at telling good stories. I never seem to get the pacing right, I don’t give enough context, my punchline is only funny or compelling to me, and I focus in on all the wrong details.
I suck in part because I’m not practiced. I’ve mostly stayed silent. Perhaps to appear normal, or because of fear and trauma. Or maybe because I didn’t see a space for my stories. Last weekend, I sat on a panel with a Vietnamese woman that grew up in my neighborhood. In hearing her frank and unsentimental account of her life, I realized that I had never shared my own. With friends, even! I realized that I’m not afraid of vulnerability; I’ve kept silent in fear of being cast as “other”. And for so long, I’ve adopted versions of stories, allowing other people’s narratives set the bar of what is OK to share.
It feels comfortable to say storytelling isn’t my jam, shrug it away, and move on with my life. But I need to learn. My story is so important, and so is yours. We further our collective consciousness in deep and meaningful ways when we tell our stories.
So how do you begin? For me, it starts with getting my stream of consciousness into clear, concise, and digestible writing. I also want to use a variety of tools, including data and strong imagery. Think Matthew Desmond. Here are the resources I’ve started with:
- Using Story to Change Systems (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
- How to Use Data Storytelling to Communicate More Effectively (The Outlier Blog)
- An Art Leveraging Science (Collaborative Fund)
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- George Orwell’s Brilliant Guide to Writing Well (The New Republic)
- A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston