5 Ways To Trust Your Instinct For Storytelling


We are all born with an instinct for storytelling and narrative. And not just writers, singers, painters or photographers—the art belongs to us as an innately creative species, don’t you think?

Right now, you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you. “I don’t have that creative instinct. I don’t have the storytelling gene.”

But, think about it …

The joke you tell at the water cooler or break room—yes, you heard it from a friend at the weekend, but Monday morning you’ve given it your own little embellishments.

What about your witty Facebook posts that your friends and family follow? The visual stories you put together on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram. The anecdote about how you met the love of your life. That’s your story, I bet. You tell it with love.

What about the one where you lost the love of your love? I bet you tell that one too—perhaps with a touch of bitterness, irony, even dark humour.

Lost and found

Some of you may be thinking that you used to have a gift for storytelling, for writing but that somewhere along the way you lost it. Lost it, maybe—lost it forever? Never. It’s still there.

In fact, I would go so far to say that it isn’t “lost” but rather “trapped”—it’s the pressure of a hot natural geyser just under the crust. Remember that sometimes volcanoes are covered in ice.

We don’t ever lose our creativity or our love of storytelling. We happens is that lose ourselves in ourselves — an inverted, narrow world. Of stress. Of obsession.

Trapped in the private and shameful little disease of living inside our tiny buzzing craniums.

How do you improve that instinct for creativity?

  1. Write a letter. In a world of 140-character Tweets, we’ve lost the art of long-form writing. This weekend, take an hour and write a letter to a friend. Get some blue onion-skin paper and a beautiful pen.
  2. Get out of your mind. Another way to break open the seal of our trapped creative tinderbox is to get out of you mind. Go for a swim with your kids or a hike with your friends. Get back to gym. Do something/anything that doesn’t require you to think.
  3. Have a plan. Develop a plan to get back to your creativity and keep it alive. Maybe it’s a map of your creative land, or a wall chart, or an app on your phone. Give your creative land a name or create a visual shorthand for it.
  4. Fall in love with reading again. Make it your goal to read at least one of your favourite books and at least one new book each month. Set yourself a goal of finishing a book every two weeks.
  5. Write. And, last but most important, just write—get the words of the page, go with the flow, write without over analysing every word, write to get out what is your mind. Say what you want to say.

“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.” ~Natalie Goldberg

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

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