Poor stories, poor lives?

If stories are our way of making sense of the world, being poor at telling them must surely negatively impact our lives.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

What stories people tell...
What stories have led these two women to this life?

Stories to make sense of the world

We are addicted to telling stories, both those we tell ourselves and those we tell others. Every little incident is an excuse to spin a story or a fragment of one. It is these stories that make sense of the world around us and our actions in it. Yet, if the truth were known, most of us are pretty poor storytellers. You only have to listen to a couple of youngsters on the bus relating what happened at school to realise. Does this inability to elaborate stories rich in detail mean that our lives are all the poorer for it? And if so, what can we do about it?

Doing justice to the richness of the world

My question might be misconstrued to mean that I am advocating storytelling which casts us as stars in a mega-production. Pulling the wool over people’s eyes was not my intention. I’m not talking about creating fiction. Nor am I talking about beguiling those listening to me, seducing them into believing the unbelievable. But rather, being able to paint a rich picture of things that happened. What I am pleading for is the development of our capacity to relate our lives. One that reflects their full richness, rather than depicting a poorly-drafted soap opera peopled with cardboard figures. If we were to improve our ability to describe the world, maybe we wouldn’t be so blind to the problems confronting us.

Personal postscript

I feel directly and personally concerned by this question. Not only because I think that answering it is key to the future of humanity. But also because, although proficient at writing novels and articles, I have great difficulty with the spoken word. My ideas often come out garbled, especially those ideas that have already been clearly expressed in my novels. I have to grapple with too many threads, too many complex interactions. My mind cannot do them justice with the spoken word. Many people have become scared of writing, largely due to school. Yet some of them have the ‘gift of the gab’, as the Irish say. My experience is quite the opposite. With time and effort, I was able to master writing by practice. Why should I not be able to do the same with the spoken word? The following video is part of that work.


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