Obviously as a writer I love telling stories. It just comes with the turf. No need to elaborate more on that point. Yet, curiously, I wouldn’t say I was a natural storyteller.
You can tell the difference between a guy who tells a story, and a storyteller. To the former it can be a profession, a job, the thing you do with your weekday. To the latter its an instinct, something that comes to them seemingly without effort.
I’d say we all have that member of the family who’s great at telling stories. You know they’re good because you’ve probably heard all the tales before at various family gatherings, yet somehow every time one starts up again you still find yourself listening, enthralled. It’s a kind of particular charisma, the ability to use the slow unfolding of words to make milling people stop and pay attention.
I’d never felt as though I had that gift, until recently. Let me sit down for a week and plan a story out, put it to paper, yes, I’m your man. I love that. Heck, I can write that story in a day if I really commit myself. But I dread the thought of eventually sitting with my daughter or son on my lap, and having them ask me to tell them a story. Nadda. I don’t feel like I can just come up with that sort of stuff off the bat.
But then I realised that the ability to tell stories doesn’t rest solely on your capacity to create dragons and damsels in distress at the drop of a hat. There are other kinds of story which need to be told.
I’ve always had a burning passion for history. It’s not just the dates. It’s the tales that accompany them. History is replete with wonderfully, achingly familiar human experiences, regardless of whether you tag BC or AD after the number. That’s always fascinated me, and I realised recently that those sorts of stories aren’t actually any different from the fairy tales we make up on the spot. Indeed, they’re often bound together.
Since 2013 I’ve been volunteering as a “learning assistant” at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor’s Centre in Scotland. That means, basically, that I dress up in a fancy (some say ridiculous, damn them) 18th century British red coat and teach kids how to load and fire muskets in 20 seconds. And I was doing that on Wednesday, as I’ve done countless times before, when I suddenly realised I was doing it. I was telling a story.
We all tell stories about the things we love, and we do it all the time. Our last football match, a particularly hard equation, how the new kid got on at school. We naturally talk most about what we enjoy. I’m lucky insomuch as I know exactly what it is I enjoy, and I can be relied to talk about it for hours at a time if need be.
Don’t be afraid to let your passion shine. The world will always need more storytellers, and we all have that ability within us. Share it with others.