The Art of Storytelling

November 5, 2019

Reading has always been a part of my life. My father read to me until I was in my early teens, hormonal and angry but still able to recognize the gift that is cracking open a new book. This practice of transposing myself into another world and another life instilled in me the need to hear people’s stories, champion ideas, and build connections through language. 

Storytelling, communicating, writing: all of these function as mediums through which to empathize and connect. No matter what field you are going into, the ability to communicate effectively is invaluable. Beyond that, though, is the ability to communicate with yourself and your own emotions. I do believe that by practicing empathy with others, you are better equipped to empathize with yourself. 

Becoming a skilled storyteller does not happen overnight, and it takes practice. Novelist Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Being an avid reader is the best way to become a good writer. When you read books or texts from different genres and in different formats, you learn about the conventions of literature. You learn from the best novels, and you also learn about what you don’t like. From there, you can develop your own style and voice. 

In response to the people who say that they don’t have time to read, it’s important to understand that we do have time. We read all the time, actually. We read Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram captions. What’s important is being intentional about what you read and remaining cognizant about how stylistic choices vary across platforms. Telling a story on Twitter is vastly different from the slower, more tedious process of telling a story in a 300-page novel, and being able to discern how these differ is valuable. 

Being a good storyteller is fundamentally related to being a good listener and a good empathizer. When you understand how people communicate, you can use that knowledge to effectively disseminate information and ideas. So, my advice is to read when you can and be intentional about your consumption of information. If you’re reading a Twitter thread, think about what you’re reading. Think about the platform and how ideas are being spread. And write when you can. Respond to people in thoughtful ways. Write in a journal. Practice your craft. 

And remember that even the best writers need editors.