"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Learning Listener: 3 Areas in Storytelling to Hearken

The storyteller is known more for talking than for listening, though both skills are needed to truly be extraordinary in the art.

While the weekend before Thanksgiving is dedicated every year as Tellabration! (National Storytelling Network), a worldwide celebration of storytelling, the Friday after Thanksgiving is dubbed National Day of Listening (StoryCorps).

Does this mean we first tell and then we listen? Then to what do we listen?

As ever-learning artists and human beings, we need to listen to:
  • Self
  • Story
  • Society
***These three areas happen to be in the title of the journal "Storytelling, Self, and Society". The intention of this post is to focus on these elements and does not mean to infringe on any publication name.

We need to listen to ourselves before we can expect to give proper attention to other areas. Sometimes we need to build the confidence to not only listen but to hearken to our intuitions and first impressions.

Some questions to ask ourselves--
  • Who am I as a Storyteller?
  • What kinds of stories do I love?
  • Where have I told stories? Where would I like to tell stories?
  • When have I told stories? When do I plan to tell stories?
  • Why do I tell stories?
  • How am I different from any other storyteller? How do I share stories?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

With the busyness of our lives, we need the silence so we can better recognize these impressions. You could consider these quiet moments similar to the dramatic pauses we add into our storytelling before audiences. The audience needs those pauses in order to "listen" to the images shared by the teller. We, as individuals, need pauses so we can "listen" to ourselves rather than the world.

Many storytellers have felt the urge to tell certain stories at a certain time. A wise storyteller listens to what is needed so that the right story is told for the right people for the right time.

When the story ends, it may not be the intent to promote the "happily ever after"--if it ends happily in the first place.

It may be to ask the audience and the teller--
  • Now what? Where do I fit in with this story?
  • What action am I motivated to take as a result of this story?
  • How have my views changed, if at all?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

The storyteller has no control as to how the audience will respond to the tales. Therefore, the storyteller has responsibility to be in tune to what stories are needed in the moment--even if the reason is not apparent at the time.

The most important unit of society is the family. Start here.

Discover what your family members have to impart about their views of the world. This includes the youngest to the oldest people. Each person has amazing stories to share.

StoryCorps tours the world with a special vehicle complete with a recording studio. People meet at this vehicle in pairs as one person is designated the interviewer and the other person is the interviewee--or storyteller. Being able to listen and guide the conversation are key skills needed by the interviewer.

Beyond the family, national storyteller Elizabeth Ellis reflects on the popular culture of the day through movies, music, and books.

For example, after watching a movie, she jots answers to questions like--
  • What themes were in this movie?
  • What stories, if any, are in my repertoire to match these themes?
  • What do I have to say about these themes? What are my views? Opinions?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

Rather than reflecting the trends, some storytellers created theme-based programs to promote opposite actions. Who said we have to agree with everyone? That is a different way to listen and then to hearken according to Self.

So. . .are you listening to Self, Story, and Society? Only you know the answer.

Feel free to share your comments here.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

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