In many ways, writing can be a solitary pursuit. Writers spend large portions of their time alone, researching and writing their stories. Even those who collaborate on writing teams spend time writing on their own. Yet storytelling is ultimately about connection.
At a recent library event, I briefly explained that I’d once worked in IT and telecom before switching to freelance writing and then fiction writing. Later, someone asked what it was like to have a corporate job when I have such a creative, storyteller mind.
I gave an honest answer about how I was always jotting down story ideas and bits of dialogue on the margins of my meeting notes and writing short stories in the evenings.
On reflection, something else has occurred to me about my time in corporate life… I spent a lot of time talking to people.
Storytelling is a product of listening to others
I’ve always been interested in other people’s stories, outlooks, and attitudes. In my corporate life, when I was waiting for a meeting to start, fixing a computer, or going out to get coffee or lunch, I’d strike up conversations. I found most people working in cubicles all day were happy to spend a few minutes chatting. They liked to tell stories about their past jobs, their kids, their pets, current events, pretty much anything.
I liked to listen and ask gently probing questions about how they felt in those stories. I loved to see their faces light up when someone showed interest in them.
As a writer, I’m a storyteller. In a way, I’m telling stories of every person I’ve ever met. Not their specific stories but what I’ve observed in how they tell them. The commonalities, like pride and worry over their kids, joy in favorite hobbies and sports, frustrations with traffic, weather, and office politics.
That may sound like I’m an extroverted person who loves to socialize, but that’s only partly true. I’m fairly balanced but more of an introvert. I need a lot of time alone to recharge my energy. More importantly, I need time alone to create my written worlds. Yet connecting with people also fuels my creativity. It lets me step out of myself and see the world from many points of view.
Writer or not, I think we all need those moments of connection. Chances to share our stories and enjoy being heard.