I'm thrilled to announce the launch of 1. Storywell Creative, a narrative platform that does all things story, and 2. "Story Matters" a place to talk story and tend your narrative fire.
My sense is that we are gravely mistaken to confine story to texts.
Allow me to share a story about a moment that changed my life and work. The turn around back to story in the world, (in media, in business, and most especially in my client's lives), vs comparative textual academic analysis, happened post doc, the first time I lectured to a non-academic audience about how Joseph Campbell and his ideas about myth mattered today. The best way to activate the audience wasn't merely to share Campbell's ideas but actually to engage them in an experience of the power of myth. After laying the "big idea" ground for Campbell, I refigured the room into a circle, where we could "work," meaning engage in a collective telling and analysis of one of Campbell's all time favorite stories, Wolfram von Eschenbach's "Parzival." The method was so simple. Tell the archetypal tale. Break it down at the plot points. Prompt the participants with questions correlating the story with their experience...and all of a sudden we had Parzival's Story in an activated conversation with the audiences' stories.
I knew from my study of myth that stories operate in a field. There is no single version of a myth. Myth is all the versions ever told, all the versions extant, all the versions told and forgotten, all the versions waiting to be told. But to work a myth, to analyze it, it is enough to constellate it and proceed comparatively. Because stories operate in a field. What I learned that day in what I thought would be a collective analysis of Parzival changed the direction of my work forever. Stories don't just operate in a field. Stories HAPPEN BETWEEN ONE ANOTHER, story to story. And furthermore and even more importantly, Stories HAPPEN BETWEEN US. That our storytelling to one another is probably the factor that allows our stories to emerge, change, and heal.
Forget about textual analysis, although that's where you train in how to facilitate this story work. The power of myth in that room was about the perfectly structured archetypal narrative + the guided questioning, constellating story telling on the audiences part that we could then explore.
That was the experience and the ritual of story.
I'd been mistaken in thinking that the magic was in the analytical breakdown, the work of an analyst or scholar to decode the structure of the system of the story, identify the narrative's DNA. What I saw in that room was that Story Work was about creating a space where an audiences's, a client's, story could emerge. The hunger in that room was not for Parzival or Campbell. It was for the audience to hear their own stories.
From that moment on, I dedicated my work in the world to LIVING STORY. My ambition made a U turn from the study of story, a scholarly and theoretical ambition, back towards the working story that I'd come out of as a Hollywood Script Analyst and writer. My MO was no longer to share the power in classical narratives and to help people learn how to read and get excited about these great stories, these vessels that transmit culture and the grave and constant. My MO was to unleash the power hidden in people's own stories, to activate Life Story, to give everyone I work with access to their Stories.
It's a kind of Story Evangelism.
Storywell and our "Story Matters" blog, is a place to bring up story, narrative theory, best practices, inspired models and big ideas, and most definitely to talk about the big stories and how they connect with your stories.
I invite you to reach back at me to engage in story talk.