I volunteered at the CYA conference earlier this month and it was great to catch-up with some old friends and meet new ones.
What I was really keen on was Paul Griffin’s session on writing for Young Adults. In the program the tag line for the workshop was, ‘keeping them sane, alive and encouraging them to open their hearts to the world’. I liked that.
Paul writes ‘street-lit’ or gritty literary fiction for Young Adults. He also works with at-risk youth in the States using his story telling skills to help them get ahead in life. He described to us how he helps these kids reflect and piece their story together – essentially their life, their plans and their dreams.
I guess you could call that goal setting, researching career paths or making achievable goals, but when we talk to people that’s not how it comes out. It comes out in conversation, as a story. No matter how jumpy or rough the narrative is, these conversations are our stories.
It’s a concept I haven’t been able to get out of my mind either. I can remember the last few times someone asked me ‘what’s been happening?’ or ‘what’ve you been up to?’
And what’s my answer? Usually a ‘nothing much, just working’.
Wow. Interesting story. No wonder the subject changes so quickly.
But there’s always more to the story, I’m just not telling it well. And for writers that want to make careers out of stories, don’t you think that you should be able to tell this story well?
But Paul’s talk got me thinking about the amount of day-to-day situations that we get to tell our stories and how many times we stumble at those opportunities: catch-ups with friends and relatives, reunions with old school friends, job interviews, first dates, or even making friends in a new workplace.
I think our insecurity with telling these stories well might come from the belief that our lives aren’t interesting enough to talk about. But if people have asked for a story – and even better, your story – then why not tell it?
Stories are how we connect with people and find some common ground. If I find out you like pilates or photos of cats doing olympics, then I’m going to get excited because I like them too. But if you’re throwing back a ‘nothing much’ every time someone asks you for your story then that’s what you’re going to get back.
So next time someone asks you what’s been happening, tell a story. Even if it’s tiny. I like short stories anyway.
Why wait? You can tell me a story in the comments below. What’s your experience of telling your story in everyday life? Can you see any benefits to try it more or are you happy sticking with the written word?