Consider the Radical Truths and Choices for the Storyteller

This is the time of year when I re-evaluate my direction, catch up on important reading, listen to inspirational/ motivational tapes and reset some of my goals for the rest of the year. For this article, I will share ideas that bombarded me – even shook me up – from two sources. First, was an article that appeared in the 2002 September issue of Creativity called “Radical Careering” written by Sally Hogshead, Creative Director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky/Los Angeles. “This article is about refusing mediocrity.” Second, is the tape program The Luck Factor: How to Take the Chance Out of Becoming a Success by one of my favorite gurus, Brian Tracy.

Warning: if you are completely satisfied with the status quo – you are thrilled with your storytelling, your life, your goals and direction – then skip this article. I’m writing for the rest of us. It’s about doing everything possible to get better and reinvent ourselves.

Radical Truth/Choice #1: We are where we are today because of the actions we have taken in the past. If our storytelling is improving because we are continually learning, preparing, performing and seeking feedback and ways to get better, then we will grow as a storyteller. I know that if you are reading this article, you are someone who is serious about your telling. But, you know that reading is not enough. It is joining that storytelling group and attending regularly. It’s letting people know that you are a storyteller, explaining what a storyteller does, and then offering to tell stories to their group. As Brian Tracy ( points out, we are the originators of our own luck.

Radical Truth/Choice #2: Push yourself to upgrade your repertoire of stories. If we have created and practiced a group of winning and comfortable stories, it is easy to become lazy about changing and/or creating new programs and stories. It takes time and effort to create a brand new program with new stories – and, after all, we love the stories we have been telling. Take the time – the payoff will be worth it. I am not necessarily suggesting that we tell all new stories, just keep adding new ones continually. And, it will add excitement and pizzazz to your storytelling.

Radical Truth/Choice #3: Being a terrific storyteller is not enough. It used to be – when excellent storytellers were not plentiful – that once the “word was out” that you were a great storyteller, groups in search of a storyteller would automatically call you. That old mousetrap saying about “beating a path to your door” hasn’t worked since the Dark Ages. Nowadays, we must let the world know what we do and the benefits of storytelling in all areas, not just at libraries and schools, but also in organizations and businesses. Yes, if you speak for free for anyone, and do it well, you probably can get free storytelling gigs. These are fine for experience sake, but don’t do them just for exposure. We need to examine what our goals are. Are we telling stories to become hired as a paid presenter? One excellent teller I know who has been telling for free in his town for years is finding that now when he tells people he is charging, they don’t want to pay. See the next section.

Radical Truth/Choice #4: It is time to charge what you are worth. Having come from a professional speaking background, I was incredibly amazed by how little storytellers charge for their wonderful art. I have even been forced into the mold of charging less than half of what I charge for speaking, mainly because we, as storytellers, have created the perception that we are not worth more. As long as the majority of tellers charge “beans” for what they do, and Aunt Mary thinks she is a storyteller and will charge even less – or come for the fun of it – then there is little hope for higher and fair fees.

Radical Truth/Choice #5: Establish a professional presence.

  • Join storytelling organizations, and volunteer. The National Storytelling Network (NSN) has many volunteer opportunities and within the group are SIGs (Special Interest Groups) with more chances for interaction. Every group to which I have belonged has been thrilled to have a volunteer who works hard and is dependable. You will be amazed by the contacts and friendships you make, and also the amount of business that will flow your way.
  • Establish a presence on the Internet. It is not going away. Join the Storytell list and interact. Get a website – yes, the initial investment sounds expensive, but the marketing value you gain will more than pay for it in the future. And every time you send an e-mail, make sure it has a signature with your website address and/or a blurb about you as a storyteller.
  • Create product. This can begin with articles that you post on your site, offer to magazines and e-zines and send in your own e-newsletter. Tapes and CDs are very popular, because everyone likes to take a piece of you home with them. I always have storytellers’ tapes in the car to soothe the frustrating moments that occur while driving. There is also the whole new area of e-books. They aren’t selling like hotcakes yet, but I am ready when they will.

Radical Truth/Choice #6: Jump, and a net will appear. As Sally Hogshead said so well, “You can’t be successful when you cling to obsolete situations out of fear. Only when you put yourself out there wholeheartedly can the best opportunities present themselves.” Changing direction, trying something completely new and offering or volunteering a whole new program can be scary. Every time I’ve jumped and taken a risk hasn’t been pretty or successful, but it has always led me to something better. The net does finally appear if you just take action and persevere.

Radical Truth/Choice #7: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself and your direction. You have the ability to become the best storyteller of your kind of tales. Remember the choices and actions we take today will not only add enjoyment and purpose to today, they will shape where we are tomorrow. No mediocrity for us! When others who come in contact with you or listen to you start saying, “You are just solucky!” you will be able to smile to yourself, knowing you arethere!

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