Story Skills Workshop

A moral dilemma

A moral dilemma

December 8, 2020
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The bottom line: A permission slip, to myself, to write to my heart’s content. And then, after I’ve finished writing, apply my new-found skills of the story scaffolding to the piece, to help me determine whether or not this is a story or a non-story. Depending on the answer, there might be some value in going back to the piece to shape, embellish, clarify it. Or not.

I spent an hour and a half in the company of four newfound friends, all of whom are co-travellers in the Story Skills Workshop. One of the assignments is to record yourself telling (or reading. Yeah. There’s a difference. One I’d not been fully aware of before.) a story, and then invite others into a live story-telling-session. 

It was a lot of fun, very rewarding in terms of feedback given and received, and, as always, feedback given by someone to another story-teller, is sometimes as helpful, or perhaps even more helpful, than feedback directed straight at me. The round-about-way is, perhaps, more palatable, in the sense that I am more easily open to take in what is being said, when it is not me, my story, my performance, my telling, that’s in the spotlight. 

The direct feedback I got was extremely valuable though, and here I am, contemplating a re-write of my story, to encompass all of the insights and nudges I got after my first round of telling it. 

However, as I woke this morning I remembered… I’d recently read  s o m e t h i n g  that spoke precisely to this. To the re-telling, the embellishment, the ’making more of’ that I was busy doing, in my mind’s eye. But what was that something? And where did I read it? 

I turned towards one of the four books I am currently reading, neatly stacked on my nightstand, and picked it up. I was hoping it was this one (A Primer for Forgetting, by Lewis Hyde), and not The Naked Now by Richard Rohr that I’d finished a week prior, and subsequently had borrowed to a friend. If it was that one I was in trouble, as I didn’t have it at hand. 

Flicking through the pages of Hyde’s book, going backwards from my bookmark firmly lodged on page 126, I glance at my marginalia, hoping that it will pop up. Luckily, it does. On page 100, so not even that many pages back. It’s a chapter titled FEED ON THE PRESENT and in it Hyde recounts a  story he’s heard recounted, of a man coming to a realization on the actual recounting of his story. 

As I am extra fond of these meta-me (or meta-Larry, in this case) conversations, here’s a few paragraphs from the book:

”… when he got home and recounted the story to various friends, ’the telling started to change a bit, from it just being a straight report of a fact and what I went through. I saw that it was promoting the self. […]’ The story had picked up self-importance along the way; ’there was some mileage coming from it.’”

’… this kind of self-making may be unavoidable and often harmless, but as a matter of Buddhist practice it should at least be noticed, be brought to mind. ’I saw what the mind was doing; the mind was taking materials from the pastas first they were just ’factual’ but then immediately started to use them for the present, the present sense of myself… The self if constantly using the materials of the past and the future to nourish itself, to build itself up… I didn’t do it consciously… It just happened. The ego is going to work, and that’s what it knows how to do.’

[…] to describe how the ego functions: it feeds on the past and the future.

– Lewis Hyde, A Primer for Forgetting

Now.
I am not a journalist.
Embellishing texts and stories is well within my prerogative, and yet.
I do believe there’s something to the awareness alluded to by Hyde (and Larry). If I am conscious of what I am doing, as I am embellishing my stories… I don’t know. There’s a greater chance of me being careful with the message? Or intentful? My stories are often centered around me – my learnings, insights, difficulties – and I honestly don’t want to make me into a person far removed from the people I am trying to reach, be it through writing or telling. I want the threshold to be lowered, rather than increased, and if I were to simply embellish as much as I can, I fear that wouldn’t be the case. 

Perhaps this is simply a message for me, as this is part of the usefulness I make of my writing:
I discover myself while writing, and if I then embellish freely, is it me I am discovering, or an imaginary me? 

(My old me did stop here, leaving you, as well as me, hanging. But, in having a story scaffolding to drape my story across, when I did, I came to the realization that this is an incomplete story, if I want it to actually read as a story. The missing part is the consequence. Where will this all lead to? What will this all lead to? 

Again. I don’t  h a v e  to make it into a full story. That’s my prerogative. Each and every time. But, for the purpose of the learning and discovery-journey I am on, let’s say I do want that:)

I’d say, my answer to this moral dilemma, centers around what my purpose is.
Am I writing only to find me? If so. Go ahead, make it less story-telling-worthy. Don’t embellish, stick to what helps me find me. 

But if I am also, or only, writing in order to get a point across, to publish a text that I hope will resonate with others too… then by all means. Put a bit more effort into it. Check to see that the story scaffolding is active in each and every step. Make sure I do engage my audience, that the challenge is clearly seen/felt/understood, so that the resolution points to a change, leaving no-one in question as to where the story ended for the heroine. 

Only… that leaves me with the worst answer of them all: It all depends. 

However. I actually think this speaks to what the Story Skills Workshop is truly about. For me. (Important bit, that last one. For me!) I write, a lot, and seldom am I intentional with my writings. Neither when sitting down to write, nor when I ship. And honestly, I don’t necessarily want to be more intentional when setting out to write. I do so enjoy writing only to discover when I am knee-deep in, what I am actually writing about. 

But the latter part. Doing the post-analysis, using the story scaffolding, helps me see what the piece is all about. And prompts me to ask myself: What’s the purpose of this piece? What do I want it to be? What do I want it to do? Does it want to become a story, or is it (I!) content with having it be a non-story?

Depending on the answer, I might, or might not, do what I did here. Go back to the writing, deliberately and intentionally shaping it (or not), embellishing it (or not), clarifying it (or not), so that I know I’ve done my best to give it the necessary prerequisites of being able to live up to my intention/s. Story or non-story alike.


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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I write to discover

December 7, 2020
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The bottom line:
When to use the framework and tools I am learning from the Story Skills Workshop, and when not to. A great discernment to make!

I know now why I resist the story scaffolding.
When I write, I mostly write to discover. Not to learn, and definitely not to teach.

When I write to discover, it is as much a surprise to me, as to anyone else, what will come.
It’s truly a matter of what wants to happen here, very far from I want this to happen now.

Like this piece.
I had the start – the insight that I write to discover. But that was it. Nothing else, nothing more. Once I put fingers to keyboard, it comes, whatever it is. I let it, and I love letting it, sometimes chuckling to myself over what is revealed to me, sometimes confused or surprised, now and again moved to tears.

Given this, I am seeing the use of the story scaffolding for me to vary on account of what type of writing it is. A piece such as this, I’d best put it out of my mind until it’s done, all has come out. Then it might well be of use to me to play with analyzing the text, seeing if I can discover all the elements of a story in it, and depending upon what type of text I’ve written, if it is a story, an actual story, that analysis can help me make the story a better story, a more succinct story, a more complete story.

If I set out knowing that I am writing a proper story, one where I know the beginning, middle and end, and the point I want to get across, why, then performing the analysis according to the story scaffolding ahead of time makes perfect sense. That will help me structure the story, get the arc of it in place in a way that serves the reader.

And then… there’s all the other stuff I write.
The non-stories.
The stream-of-consciousness-pieces as well as the poems, the book reflections and anecdotes, the invitations and…
At a loss for words, I’ve realized I’ve batched most everything into the concept of story, something the Story Skills Workshop has shone a light on, making me discern more consciously what is a story and what isn’t, but I am far from on firm ground here. So I don’t know, what else might I be writing that is a non-story?

I don’t know, and I am eager to discover more on that topic, as well as what will happen when I start to use the framework and tools from the workshop more actively, more deliberately. And I wonder… will you notice? Will there be a sudden shift, in what I write, how I write, how you, the reader, will perceive it (I don’t think so. But if I am wrong, please tell me!), or will it be a gradual shift, invisible in each and every piece to its own, but when put together, next to one another, small incremental spets will be discernable, when looking back (Yes. If anything, this!)?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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I dream stories.

December 5, 2020
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The bottom line:
Immersing myself fully in the Story Skills Workshop, I am dreaming about the tools and framework given to me, an indication that I am wholeheartedly taking on the challenge of learning and discovering what these might gift me with.

I dream stories.
Here, a dream-bubble filled with the engaging beginning of a story.
There, another bubble filled with the story scaffolding.
Characters. Catalysts. Change.

Bubble after bubble burst into my dreams, having me process, relate to, befriend the framework and tools presented to me in the most ingenious way in the Story Skills Workshop. As I sleep.

This is what the brain does.
Make sense of what abounds in my world during the day, cleaning it up if need be, categorizing it, upgrading some to becoming a part of my memory bank, others discarded as not relevant, not worth the time and effort of remembrance.

There’s a lot for me to relate to, to integrate, to try on for size and fit, of all that is presented to me in the workshop. And I am reminded of the value of me keeping an open (an even more open than I have been, honestly!) mind and heart to it all, when I read Lewis Hyde A Primer for Forgetting, in an ask to the reader, by courtesy of Nietzsche:

”Whoever wants really to get to know a new idea does well to take it up with all possible love, to avert the eye quickly from, even to forget, everything about it that is objectionable or false. We should give the author of a book the greatest possible head start and, as if at a race, virtually yearn with a pounding heart for him to reach his goal. By doing this, we penetrate into the heart of a new idea, into its motive center: and this is what it means to get to know it. Later, reasons may set limits, but at the start that overestimation, that occasional unhinging of the critical pendulum, in the divide needed to entice the soul of the matter into the open.”

This, an ask, that I can take to heart even though I am not here, in the Story Skills workshop, reading a book. I am, I want to be, penetrating into the heart of this, for me, new idea of the story scaffolding, learning, playing with, experimenting and examining what it can be for me, what it can mean for me, as I write, as I continue to learn and to discover what is there, for me to expand with, through, from.


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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Getting a few hours of work in

November 21, 2020
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The day opened up thanks to a change of plans, and although it’s Saturday, I thought I might get a few hours of work done, after first spending two hours over Zoom with my two Buddhas. So I sat down, computer at hand, and decided to do my work first, rather than prioritizing the paid work I have to get done.

(Yeah.
Sigh.
I know.
Crazy, right?!
I had perhaps get a wee bit better at prioritizing…
)

But before that, I did a combo breakfast/lunch. And yes. I am aware. This might be called a brunch. However, brunch sounds like a lovely spread, something to nibble at, come back to more than once, preferably in the company of great friends, and I had none of that. So brunch doesn’t seem like the word, if you know what I mean? A bowl of yogurt with a diced banana and an apple, alone, watching an episode of The Crown, simply isn’t brunch, no matter what time of day it’s done.

Never mind that though.

My work today constituted writing a response to one of the lessons in the Story Skills Workshop I am currently participating in, a lesson I’d let percolate for not just one, but definitely two, three? Or perhaps even four days?

(My game-plan in a workshop like this is not to read ahead of where I am currently at. So as I did lesson D today, not until having published my response did I start to read other’s responses to lesson D. I can read material that I’ve already moved past, but not material I’ve yet to provide my own take on. I want to come at each lesson from myself, from my thoughts, ideas, without having been –too– influenced by how others respond to them.)

I like percolating on these prompts, letting my response come, an organic growth from within somehow, but hey, there’s another three lessons that have already been released, and more coming, so a nagging sense of wanting to get it down on paper, so I could move on to the next lesson, giving that one room to percolate as well.

And yes. I did get my work done.
It’s just that besides writing my response to the questions asked, I’ve also responded/interacted/been moved by at least a dozen other responses. Wanting to read, savor, respond, and not just in this forum, but also in the other two forums I am a proud participant/member of. What I haven’t done, is that paid work. And as it’s now five-thirty in the evening, I feel about ready to call it a day.

Given that it’s Saturday, perhaps that’s not a bad choice after all?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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Story Skills Workshop

November 15, 2020
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I did it.

I held out for four months, but finally, I could not withstand the pull to engage in another AKIMBO workshop. I signed up earlier this week, and am now, already, madly-in-love-with and knee deep into the Story Skills Workshop. (If you read this before the 16th of November, 2020, there’s still a chance to dive in with me!)

With a total of fourteen lessons dropping every other day or so, I look forward to learn a lot, discover even more, and get (and give) ample tankespjärn. The first lesson on Why, I responded to thus:

What brought you to this workshop?
A pull, the first since being on the first cohort of The Creative’s Workshop, the first real pull of a soft inner voice saying this, this is something for you. Just the way it was with TCW, which is the first AKIMBO-workshop I’ve ever taken, even though I’ve been drawn to them, drawn, not pulled, subtle difference, and yet, one I’ve distinguished between, ever since Seth Godin first started plugging the altMBA.

Small nudges in response to me putting out into the world my thoughts on joining the Story Skills Workshop, the universe aligning, making the pull ever-stronger, magnetic, harder to resist. Possible to resist, now and again, I do resist on of these pull’s. But not this time. This time I went for it.

What’s the story you want to tell?
If anything, this is what’s unclear, here I do step out into unknown territory (and what a treat that is!). I have blogged since 2012, resulting in a lot of personal storytelling published. Since a few months back I am doing a personal deep-dive into shame, using different modalities, writing being one of them. I am sharing these writings, not (yet) publicly on my blog, but in a smaller circle of creatives, and I know (owning it.) the power of this material.

However, I do not feel that material is what I am to share here. It’s too personal, in one sense, but more than that, it’s a bit too raw, too current, to share here, not sure I could take it being nitpicked and scrutinized the way I want to invite nitpicking and scrutiny to my participation here.

So likely, I will be sharing personal stories, blog-worthy stories, strung together solely by the fact of me. But who knows…

What are some of your challenges when it comes to storytelling?
Well, possibly my greatest challenge is how to distinguish between personal and private, what is too intimate to share. And the hurdle there involves others more than me, honestly. I am what I am, who I am, because of others, loved ones as well as mere acquaintances, or even strangers. Where do I draw the line? Who, and how, do I bring into my reflective ruminations? Where do I draw the line? Who do I describe in such a way that they, and others close to me, would be able to distinguish, to know, who I am talking about? What events can be shared, where identity is revealed? When does it make sense, when doesn’t it? When might it even be hurtful to the person/s? Does the end justify the means? What –how– can I do to tell my story in a way that makes the story worth telling, without telling someone else’s story, in a way they do not want their story told? Where/How do I draw the line?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.

 

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