I’m Not a Professional Storyteller

There are two broad categories of storytellers. Professional storytellers work very hard to develop their skills. They can tell you about stage presence, what to wear when performing and voice care. They are careful concerning copyright and have been known to memorize and repeat long stories with a practiced grandeur that would make even the original author proud. The other category of storyteller has been referred to as the kitchen table storyteller. These bards are more at home in a kitchen or living room, as opposed to on stage. They spend a lot of time listening to the stories that others tell, until they get their turn. They then jump in with gusto to share the truths that they know everyone has been waiting to hear.

As a student preacher I was taught voice care and breathing by the Opera singer Mrs Daniels, took three university courses in homiletics, was evaluated many times by my professors and even won an international prize from a series of stories that were written in English but published in Japan. For three years my mentor and thesis director was the Right Reverend Dr. CM Nicholson: a stalwart of the United Church of Canada in the 1950s who could be heard preaching coast to coast on the CBC many Sunday afternoons. Over the 50 years following I have been paid a regular salary and have always had my preaching rated highly by others. Not-with-standing, I am a kitchen storyteller.

How many times did I sit around my grandmother’s kitchen table and listen to her and my uncles go on and on with stories about this that and the other. Sometimes they would start with “Do you remember when….” or “you must remember the time when…” When my father was just a little boy…” It might be a bit of local history, perhaps a personal story or even “once upon a time… long before Europeans settled here ….” These stories established a sense of who we were as a family, built a sense of community and taught me how to live and survive. These are my stories and these are the stories that I want to share around the kitchen table.

Writing from the Heart

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When we put a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, a process takes place in our head.  Words grow into phrases and paragraphs. Thoughts or concepts grow into descriptions, statements and ideas.  Reviews and re-writes grow towards the completed project. The work may be scholarly and grammatically OK, but will it be memorable? Will it be cold, one-dimensional and bore us to death, or will it come to life?

The poet William Wordsworth  counseled writers to “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Writing from the heart we open ourselves to the life force that comes through the DNA that is the very ground of our being.  It is through our DNA that we connect to the past and through which we relate to all that is around us.  But what is it in the DNA? What is the essential stuff that has been there since the big bang: driven creation of the heavens, stars and planets, and evolved human life from a cellular start to self-awareness and more to come? It is the breath of life, which is more than the air we breath. It is that powerful spirit which, in human terms, comes from the heart and gives life to all evolving matter.

Could it be that our writing/blogging, anything that we do, will only truly come to life when it comes from the heart?