Why There is Power in Personal Storytelling
Stories are connective tissue with feelings. When you touch people with your stories, it makes you and your art hard to forget.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou
With a humble nod to the incomparable self-help guru, Stephen Covey, we title this post, 7 Tips to Highly Effective Personal Storytelling.
The Roots of Storytelling Are Archetypal
They are as ancient as the most basic forms of human communication, which is why they are so powerful. Human speech originated about 100,000 years ago. Art came along 73,000 years and writing 3,500 years ago. Whatever direction you want to go with your art-making skills, your personal stories will boost how far you go.
Regular readers may recall a post from last month, How Artists Can Use Storytelling and Why It Works. It was popular with readers. And I have more to share on the topic and trust you will like this one as well as the last.
Personal Storytelling Is Not a Late Show Monologue
Not all stories are or need to be humdingers or whiz bangers that blow the minds of listeners. While we enjoy belly laughs, suspenseful dramas, and tearjerkers, most of the time, we’re merely seeking to understand first so we might be better understood later.
The quest to know first and then share is a dynamic as old as humans. It’s a process that is deeply ingrained in our lizard brains. We use it to form friendships, develop companions, and to find life mates. Telling stories about ourselves is a primal key to let others into our world and is a way to be vulnerable, in an efficient way, so they can feel safe in being with us.
By being the first to listen, two things happen. 1) We learn and gain understanding, which helps us know how to respond. 2) New information helps us understand which story to tell. It’s a beautiful thing because listening is gracious behavior, which is a virtue others notice.
Humans Seek Knowledge, Understanding, and Connections
We listen to hear if you are telling us something believable and real. When our gut tells us you are genuine, we take it as a clue to relax and soak up what you’re showing us. Storytelling situations are ideal for sharing something authentic. We use stories to help us move through the stages of human interactions that lead to lasting connections with others.
When I know something about you, it becomes easier for me to relate to you some things about me. Small exchanges are the building blocks we use to create relationships with acquaintances, friends, business associates, and lovers. You can use your personal stories to engage your best prospects to buy your art.
Selling art is about creating essential contacts with people who would buy your art. Those who know things about you are naturally better prospects than those who don’t. – Barney Davey
The trick then for artists, and any creative who wants to improve their ability to connect with others, is to have a personal story or two or three to share with others when the opportunity presents.
Some Are Blessed While Us Mortals Succeed with Use
Yes, there are among us savants who tell stories with the same ease it takes to get water from a tap. They just turn it on. For the rest of us, with a little forethought and practice, no matter who you are, you can become a successful storyteller.
It works because you will use personal stories when the opportunity arises, which is different for everyone but available for all to use at will.
Here Are the Seven Tips to Using Personal Storytelling to Engage Your Audience
Everyone Has a Story
It’s true. We all have stories. What’s also true for most people is there is so much more to them than they realize. Because you live your life every day, it’s complicated for you to be aware of intriguing aspects that make you the one-of-kind person you are.
With practice, help, and guidance, you can mine for those nuggets to use in your personal storytelling. An example is to get family and friends to work on a brainstorm with you. Ask them to help you find 50 things about you that most people don’t know.
Have a Take
Sports talk host, Jim Rome, is famous for admonishing his callers to “Have a take and don’t suck.” Fans have 30 seconds to give an opinion and explain why they have it. Your views make the most indelible impact when presented concisely. You will never get 100% to agree, but you don’t want that anyway. If everyone agrees, it’s sure to assume you are safe and boring.
You were fired from a job you loved. Your parents divorced when you were young. Your whole family was against you building a career as a full-time artist. You had dyslexia, and your family was embarrassed instead of helping you. Whatever adversity you faced and overcame in life made you more invincible and fascinating. It’s part of how you have become who you are, which is always worth knowing.
Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end, no matter the length. Use this format and keep it in mind as you work through constructing your personal stories. Having a framework will keep both you and your listener on track and involved.
Stay on Point
It’s easy to lose focus and let a story turn into a ramble. When you wander off the path, you confuse your listener or reader. They were expecting the next logical part of the story, and now they are down a different rabbit hole. Keep on point to keep the attention of your audience. It takes discipline to tamp down the urge to ramble on to a new topic mid-story, but practice and review make it possible.
The Better You
Your audience and inquiring minds want to know what has happened to you that has made you a better person. It’s the happy ending we all crave. Life experiences are steppingstones to enriched and enlightened lives. The cherry on top of your story is how you are a better person because of your life experiences.
Share & Inspire
Stories are meant to be shared—they exist to be shared. You don’t need the glib tongue of a talk show host to share stories from your life experiences. The expectation is not for a professional presentation. We anticipate discovering clues that help us understand who you are, what you stand for, how you got to where you are, and so forth. Of course, we don’t need or want it all at once. There’s a reason for the acronym TMI to have passed into the vernacular.
You help your stories become compelling because you lead the listener by knowing what you will say and how you will say it. Keeping them in mind as you seek to give them your “Why.”
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. – Simon Sinek
Personal Storytelling versus Stories about Art
I believe the problems artists face in making connections are not because they can’t or don’t want to connect. It’s because they haven’t learned to talk with confidence in the context of their story. Personal stories are the glue of human interaction.
The question of why there is not training about adding stories to art comes up often enough to make it worthwhile to answer here. First and foremost, they, although alike in many ways, are also different in many ways. The evidence that people buy the artist as much as the art is abundant across all forms of art. A spectacular new book by John Grisham written under a nom de plume will sell a fraction of a mediocre book by Grisham sold under his name.
Storytelling Is Programmed In Us
We didn’t invent this storytelling dynamic; it’s part of human nature. We like our heroes. We are comfortable with familiar things. We often give undue credit based on reputation and past performance. Is this fair? The answer is no in a world where art was judged purely on merit. But we all know that is not the case, nor will it ever be.
It’s our belief if you can learn to be comfortable telling stories about yourself that you can apply the same principles to telling stories about your art. We also believe most artists, and most people in general, besides those braggers no one can stand, are less inclined to talk about themselves than they are their art. If you gain mastery in the field of personal storytelling, you’ll find you can use the same tools to talk about your art.
Want to Talk Better about Your Art Then Learn to Talk Better about Yourself
Finally, to learn to talk about your art without being comfortable to speak about yourself won’t work. Get this done first, and the rest will come naturally. As with all learning, you will get out of it what you put into it. Let us know how you are doing and how we can help you.
Consider joining the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP). I created it with the goal of helping artists learn how to live their best artist’s lives, and to provide world-class art marketing knowledge at prices affordable for all artists no matter who they are or where they live.