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The Importance of Written Storytelling

Finding Wisdom on a Rainy Day

Our hyper-connected culture lends itself well to written storytelling.  Some find comfort retreating to a less connected means of writing.  Regardless of the method, through writing we learn and memorialize what we have learned for others to read, and hopefully learn themselves.

It was time for me to write. My wife was leaving for a mani-pedi. Rain fell in buckets, and the June temperature was plummeting past a windy 63 degrees Fahrenheit. To make matters worse, we had just completed a two-hour mimosa-fueled brunch conversation about American politicians, a subject we don’t always agree on.

A backlog of inspiring articles on productivity and teamwork loomed over me like a grand piano suspended by a moving crane outside an apartment window. Captivated by the task but feeling as if I lacked control over the outcome, I sat down to write. The waltz between letters on my keyboard and the “Backspace” bar was not going anywhere. After about ten minutes I finally stopped. A jumbled internal dialogue ensued:

“Why am I doing this?” Pause to look out at the rain. “That’s a good question. Write an answer!”

Now you are caught up and ready to explore my personal treatise on writing. Some of you will find my thoughts relatable. Others will find them loony. Regardless, I hope they inspire you to define the importance of writing for yourself.

Hopefully this article becomes a shared learning experience for each of us.

I am a selfish writer. I write to learn. But, I am also a servant leader. So I hope to share my learning experience with you even, if we do not engage in dialogue via the comments section. Learning is not a zero-sum game, and that’s a beautiful thing. Through writing I can learn and memorialize what I have learned for you to read, and hopefully learn yourself. To that end I hope to hone storytelling skills every time I write.

We relate to the world through stories including myths, movies, and television shows. Stories are what we remember about other people and how we hope to be remembered by others.

Strong leaders often tell compelling and coherent stories. We relate to the world through stories including myths, movies, and television shows. Stories are what we remember about other people and how we hope to be remembered by others. Most of us even think of ourselves as protagonists in a running story. As a servant leader I hope to relate to others and help them learn through written stories.

Our hyper-connected culture lends itself well to written storytelling. In the workplace we increasingly share experiences and communicate over email and instant messenger. Platforms from blogs to Twitter encourage us to share personal and professional stories about the world. Web-based networks like Facebook and LinkedIn enable us to showcase our internal protagonist. Even Snapchat encourages users to inscribe context on pictures. Never has written storytelling been so important to communication and personal branding.

Whether it is for business or pleasure, the majority of us interact through written content hundreds of times a day.  For this reason storytelling is a staple of our hyper-connected culture.

The ubiquity of written storytelling in our culture creates massive blind spots. We treat writing and storytelling as separate learned skills. Think of the toddler who babbles on incoherently trying to tell her teacher about a weekend playdate. The teacher will smile and nod, then redirect the toddler to a handwriting or reading exercise meant to improve her writing. Once the toddler enters college professors will critique her on written proficiency and argumentation, or storytelling, separately. Years later the workplace takes the toddler’s writing skills for granted, and she is mentored exclusively on crafting coherent messages for target audiences. At each phase storytelling and writing are taught as separate unequal skills, but in today’s culture we often leverage them together. In my experience, writing outside of school and work remains the best way to eliminate this blind spot.

In most of our workplaces fundamental writing skills are taken for granted. Instead we are coached on crafting coherent messages for target audiences. 

Another blind spot many of us fail to successfully navigate involves writing for an appropriate audience. Taken together, blog posts and tweets help successful communicators tell a coherent story. Writing each in a separate platform-native language increases their individual impact. For this reason, articulating the same thought across different written platforms takes a lot of cultural finesse. Writers must know the audience on each platform to generate compelling individual messages. Simultaneously, writers can’t let each platform’s audience manipulate the story. Overcoming this blind spot requires interaction with each audience to practice storytelling in different forms. Once again, independent writing seems to be the best way forward.

So here I sit on this rainy day. My wife has returned from her mani-pedi with beautiful pink nails. In her absence I have gotten a good hour and a half to practice written storytelling. It feels like time well spent. I have learned a bit more about myself by describing why I write. I have also explored the importance of written storytelling in our culture. Hopefully my experience sparks a dialogue, or better yet encourages others to take up writing. You are the ultimate arbitrator. Share your thoughts on the importance of writing in comments below, or posts elsewhere, and let us know why you write.

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