27 January 2020
I grew up around artistic, paint brush-wielding sisters who wanted sketch pads and watercolour sets for their birthday, so I always felt like the odd one out. I wanted old books. War-time poetry anthologies. It’s only as I’ve grown older that I’ve realised I am creative in a totally different way to my sisters and that’s OK.
As a child I loved bedtime because that meant story time. I was a bookworm at school (I finished those Magic Key stories so quickly) and film-obsessed in my teens. I dabbled in spoken word poetry at university and to this day have numerous short stories and unfinished novels sitting in my laptop’s archives. Even my day job had to be creative. Everything I’ve ever loved has ‘storytelling’ at its centre.
It’s only upon reflection that I realise why ‘storytelling’ is so important to me. It’s about establishing a connection. Maybe it was years of having sisters who found common ground with one another in their unfair share of artistic talent, but I’ve realised I’ve always loved stories – whether it’s reading or writing – because it’s a chance to make a connection with someone else. I’m not alone.
I will never forget my first public performance at an Open Mic Night at ARU. I had just finished reading a piece about trying to find body positivity in a society that has so many impossible standards for millennials. I must have run from the stage. I’m surprised I didn’t trip. Transcending the stage in a fuzzy blur of adrenaline and nerves is one thing, but to suddenly tune in and hear the room filled with whoops and cheers was amazing. I will never forget a voice coming from the darkness as I made my way back to my seat, my friends’ faces glowing with pride in the distance: ‘that was SO good,’ the mystery voice whispered to her friend as I walked past. I was too nervous to look up and meet their eyes, but I could still feel an incredible, unbelievable warmth from them.
In an age where we are drowning in content on social media, this is an important benchmark for us to find something we really love. Do we relate to it? YouTube, music, novels, films, Instagram are all packed with people’s stories. Even the way online dating is evolving, we must provide a quick snippet of our story, our best bits – to try and impress potential lovers.
Ultimately, life comes down to telling our stories and/or telling someone else that we love their story. It runs through everything we do and that’s why storytelling as a concept will last as long as humanity itself. From the Egyptians’ first attempts at storytelling to entertain their fathers, to 21st-century vloggers describing their transitioning process to their fans, ‘storytelling’ is totally unique to our species and I am always excited to see where it leads us next.
By Megan Herdson, MA Creative Writing
Published to mark National Storytelling Week 2020