Thursday, July 10, 2008

Telling the whole elephant

I would love the ability to demonstrate the difference between reading a story and listening to it. Recently, I was talking to a friend about one possible way to approach this: I could create a written version of a story I normally tell then post it along with a link to a polished, recorded telling of that same story.

"You're going to kill it." she warned me. She went on to describe her experience with this. A story that she once told with ease had become awkward and stilted after she captured a version in writing.

That made me nervous, but I decided to try my hand at it anyway. To be cautious, I picked a small story, something I typically tell as a little anecdote, that I wouldn't fall apart over if I stopped being able to tell it. Writing it was enjoyable, though it took longer than I expected. It felt as if every line I started was actually part of another, bigger story. After trimming those parts out (and placing them in a notebook for safekeeping) I was done!

This last Tuesday, I had a chance to tell it. Awkward and stilted, I stumbled through the beginning. Something was different. I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, but it didn't feel like a story. Usually, when storytelling (even when I'm flubbing it) I feel a connection to the story and to the listener -- I feel as if I am a conduit of some sort. But this time, I felt like I was just speaking. I glanced at the story (sat with it a moment, in my head) and noticed it was just a thin sliver, there was no room for me to walk around! It hit me then, I was thinking about the slice I had captured in writing.

When writing, I am like one of the blind men in the blind men and elephant story. In my opinion, this is fine for writing (or at least, for my level of writing). On paper, there is only so much I can chew or hold up to the reader at once. For this reason, putting on the blind fold helps me focus.

What I learned on Tuesday was that I need to remember to take off the blind fold. I need to tell the whole elephant.

1 comment:

Connecting Stories said...

Hi Elsa! Found this link on pro storyteller. - I know what you mean about writing and stiffness. My greatest boon and challenge is a terrible memory for detail. I forget so much in the moment of performing and rarely get caught up in trying to "step in the same river twice" to mangle Heraclitus -
"We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not."
Great blog and fun story


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