Is your story getting in the way of your creative potential?
Here’s a short story about a girl named Rose.
Rose (who in later life became my Grandmother-in-law), came to Canada as a child, in the '30s to escape the pogroms in Lithuania.
She knew one language — Yiddish. But, as children do, she started to learn English very quickly. On the boat ride over, she started to add English words to her vocabulary. You might assume this was a good thing.
But she was petrified.
She tried to block out the new words; to try to resist them from taking root in her brain.
That's because she had a story in her head about how languages work: that you trade one for the other. One English word in = one Yiddish word out.
At the tender age of 8, she was already afraid of losing her identity, her history, her sense of self.
Of course, a grown-up soon told her a different story: that we are capable of learning more than one language, and that we are also capable of bringing our history and culture with us wherever we go.
The story changed, and so did her potential to live and thrive in a new world.
Our stories can free us up or they can hold us back.
Our potential to create, innovate and thrive depend on our ability to write new stories for ourselves.
I teach storytelling to different kinds of people. Some of the people I help are designers and other creative-minded people: people who want to create something new, something better, some beautiful.
I believe that storytelling is so important for anyone with these goals.
Because whether we realize it or not, we are all telling stories at any given moment. We are making up stories about how the world works, about others, and about ourselves.
These stories aren’t necessarily right or wrong — but they are just stories.
They are only one set of possibilities.
The stories we tell about ourselves and our own lives are the most powerful stories we have. Because we are so close to them, they can be hard to change. They can feel sticky, immoveable, so damned sure of themselves.
But when we can start to see those deeply held beliefs as stories, and learn how to work creatively with those stories, then we can start to explore new ideas. Imaginary rules and limitations fall away. We questions our assumptions a little more. We call ourselves on our own bullshit better.
Boxes get smaller. Ideas get bigger.
Stories (and all the rules and limits they imply) become creative material for us to work with.
And then something really great happens.
Because, when we become active storytellers, we start to realize the same thing that a small child once did on a boat headed for Canada… There’s more potential here than I thought.