Creativity Sessions: Thoughts on Storytelling

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling recently. Okay, I kind of think about storytelling all the time anyway. But binge-watching Louis on Netflix makes me reflect on the way we tell our own stories.

I am fascinated by the expanding theory of storytelling as an intrinsic form of human communication. The questions of why we tell stories, and how storytelling is likely an evolutionary trait have grown on me and in me. Jonathan Gotschall’s introduction to these theories in The Storytelling Animal provide a fantastic summary of these ideas, and I highly recommend reading it if you are at all intrigued by storytelling.

I think this is important because storytelling is ingrained in nearly everything we do as a species. Pick an industry or a field of academic study. History, music, psychology, advertising, biology, economics, human resources, political science; I think in general, most of these fields can be boiled down to a form of storytelling. History is the story of the past (that one is quite obvious). Advertising is the story that a brand is trying to build and portray. Biology is the story of all life. Economics uses numbers and data to depict the financial behavior of society.

The point is, I started to question my own storytelling. How do I tell stories, and why do I even bother telling them? Haikus are interesting little snapshots of simplistic pleasures. Novels are much more in depth worlds to become immersed in. But why tell these stories?

Strangely enough, I had never asked myself that question before until today. I think I tell stories because it is how I feel connected with people; with the person sitting across from me at a bar, or with or with the person reading this on the other end of the Internet. I’ve always wanted to feel part of something bigger than myself, and I think storytelling has been the most accessible way for me to reach others.

Watching the episode of Louis where he decides to buy a $17 million house that he most definitely cannot afford (“My House,” season 2), simply because he has to, I feel connected with him. With the character or with Louis CK for real. With just that tiny sliver of a person’s existence, I believe I understand him more. Whether or not that’s true, I think, is superfluous.

Am I crazy?

Steve D

3 thoughts on “Creativity Sessions: Thoughts on Storytelling

  1. I think this piece is an example of how we all understand things through different means. I also tend to regard most things as a story, or as something that implies a story, while I imagine an engineer would see a story as a mixture of random and intentional elements, combining into something that stabilizes and works well.
    I think language is very subjective, and stories are a strong way to connect with people, a common experience or idea that can be shared and discussed, allowing us to better understand each other.

    1. Agreed 🙂 “Story” certainly is its own system of understanding the world. In his book, Gotschall makes the case (I think quite well) that storytelling is the most fundamental form of human understanding, ingrained into how we evolved language, even how we evolved as a species. I highly recommend his book 🙂

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