Last week Ray and I went to hear Malcolm Gladwell talk. We have enjoyed his books and thought we might like to hear and see him in person. It was a wonderful evening. If you have not read his books or his articles in the New Yorker, I can only describe him as a storyteller/sociologist. He takes a simple idea and explores what we believe about that idea and why we might not be seeing the whole picture and how we might see that simple idea in a different way once we have explored all the elements. Could be very dull, but he is far from dull because he is such a skilled storyteller. Every idea is illuminated by a story. And standing on the stage of the Schnitzer Auditorium the other evening he spun out another true story that wound around in unexpected ways and painted a mental picture more vivid than most television. You can get a sense of the kind of storyteller he is from this recent TED talk.
(If you like this one, check out his talk about what makes us happy and spaghetti sauce.)
Anyway, he got me thinking about the skill of telling a story. Really, about the power of a well-told story. Most of us, if we are lucky, grow up on stories. There was nothing I loved more as a child than hearing my mother or father, both of whom were good story tellers, talk about their childhoods. My grandmother was an exceptionally good storyteller and hearing her descriptions of life on a Montana ranch or as a young, widowed mother scratching out a livelihood in Seattle were better than fiction. Did she ever say to me "work hard and you will win the respect of others" ? No. She did not. But her stories did. Did she ever try to impress upon me that I must always be honest and open with others? No, but her deep belief in honesty and integrity came through her stories in a way that made a greater impression than preaching ever would.
As a longtime blogger I read a lot of advice about how to blog better. Much of it is about gaining more readers with gimmicks and novelty and it seems there is always the admonition that one's blog must offer more and better information than the run of the mill blog. Hmmm. Well maybe. Does that mean we should all be creating those lists, like "Twenty five ways to improve your free-motion stitching" or "The top ten reasons no one is buying your art." And I think, "what do I like to find when I read a blog?" A story. Tell me a good story and I am your faithful reader.
I sometimes begin to write a blog entry and find myself telling a story. It is part of who I am, I guess. I know I use this blog to tell my story. Self-indulgent perhaps, but I am always heartened when I hear from readers who see themselves in my story or tell me they laughed—or cried. And even more, I love when you tell your stories. As I think about it, it may be the best thing we do as humans—in our writing, in our art, around the table or the campfire, in our lives. We tell our stories.
Photos, because I think all blog posts need photos. Top of the post—outside the studio door. Bottom of the post — morning walk this week.