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Stop Trying to Be a Storyteller—Just Be a Story Listener

People are natural storytellers.

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Stories are how we make sense of ourselves and our past. Stories are how we identify our culture and identity.

It’s little wonder to me that so many people want to be storytellers. And there are a ton of people who can give advice, write blogs and books about how to be a storyteller. I have more than one book on my shelf, thank you.

I am convinced that as much as we want to be storytellers, most of us do not know how to tell stories. For as many stories as we have heard, we cannot tell them. Why?

Because we are not good at listening for stories.

We are not good at collecting stories.

Some people collect comic books or Star Wars toys. Others collect music or art. And some people collect stories.

And I think that is the key. Real storytellers know when a story is being told, even if no one else hears it. They know how to collect the stories that no one else is listening for. Most of us want to jump to the finish line and just be great storytellers. We want people to listen to us, as if we have the right to be listened to. But long before we become worthy of being listened to, we have to learn to listen.

Take one of my favorite short story authors, Eudora Welty. Her stories made it look easy. But no master artist, author or musician just skips to the finish line. There was a time when Welty shut her mouth, was not trying to be heard, and instead just listened.

That listening may be the most important first step. And who knows how long she just listened. 

Our generation wants so badly to be seen and heard. But no one will feel seen and heard until they make other people seen and heard first.