Storytelling 103

The right and the wrong way to learn to tell a story.

When you have chosen a story to tell, you need to remember it! There are lots of different ways to remember a story and practice it for telling. The wrong way is to write it out word for word and memorise it, particularly if they were not your words to start with. While there are what I think of as literary tellers, those for whom the words chosen hold the meaning, for most Storytellers the meaning of a tale is what resonates for you.

There is a story of mine that has had startling different meanings for other people when they hear it told, than it has for me. There have been stories I have heard that I hear differently to what resonates for the Teller. It is what resonates for us that draws us to particular stories and what we focus on in the re-telling.

When we listen to stories, images are created by our minds. It’s why I use props for the preschool age as they are not yet adept at imaging images and don’t yet have the connections and categories of images that language in stories can evoke. Props assist the casting of the story spell. There are people who are not visual and need the flow and rhythm of the story to create meaning. This is not common but does happen. One Storyteller recounts the time when an adult, listening intently to a tale, suddenly jumped and exclaimed, “What was that?” It was the first time he had had the experience of seeing something in his mind. To think, this is what storytelling can evoke.

The passage of the story from the Storyteller travels through the experiences and life story of the listeners. Just as art is in the eye of the beholder (or beauty, whatever), a told story slips past the busyness of an everyday conversation into an intimacy with the listener’s imagination.

So, if we focus too much on including particular words and phrases, unless we are very very good (and I can think of one or two) Storytellers, we can lose the connection between Teller and Listener to create the possibility of a tale that is just for them.

When I create a new story, it takes a while. An idea bubbles around in my head and bits and pieces add themselves along the way until I find myself telling parts of it to myself. At this point I might write the story down. Once written, I leave it. The story is now part of my conscious mind and the images it evokes begin to link together. As I like to draw, I often sketch the tale in no more than 6 pages with one image per page. When I know a story well, I tell it as it unfolds in my mind. I do not skip from page to page but I am right inside the story telling it as it happens.

There are several ways to learn new stories, whether other people’s or ones you have created yourself. We will discuss that next time.

Blueprints: an Introspective

One of the things that really annoys me is how things that happened so long ago still have impact now.

I understand that our foundation story is deeply routed into our brains and our smaller selves can get trapped in the ruts. It can take all our skill as learned adults to get our smaller selves out of those ruts and moving in a positive and healthy directions.

Our foundation stories keep coming up throughout our lives in our various interactions and experiences, as they are our blueprints and how we recognise our relationships. Changing the blueprints is a lifetime of work.

It annoys me that things my adoptive mother did so many decades ago can still have impact. She’s ancient. I’m well and truly middle-aged. I have a deep seated anger toward her that I rarely touch. I also have deep seated pain that I let go and let go and let go.

I have been through periods with my own adult children where they have been busy separating and blaming. I understand that this is a process we all go through. I am grateful that they have matured and we have settled into adult relationships that are mutually supportive. I did not do to them what my mother did to me and my siblings.

What happens when your parent is the cause of significant damage for you? When they put you into such appalling situations of abuse that the blueprints are disastrous? Those blueprints may never be able to be altered. They get shelved. They get dusty. They get frayed and torn at the edges. They are still there.

I have no resolution for this, I’m just irritated. I cannot allow myself to even think about my mother. It makes me sad, especially when I consider what I have with my girls, whom I adore. They are truly wonderful people (and yes, I know I am biased). I wish my mother thought that of me.

And therein lies the niggling doubt. No matter how much I appreciate myself and am grateful for my resilience and strength, the foundation person in my life does not consider me a person of worth. There it is, that thread of doubt that it might be true.

Ahh, now that I know what it is that taints my blueprints, maybe I can get them off the shelf and find those threads and erase them.

My artwork on my skin: an Introspective

At the age of fifty I realised that the long desired tattoo had not been etched upon my skin because I hadn’t drawn it yet.

This was a revelation. I had started drawing and painting again to soothe my mind and develop skills to illustrate my own stories. I had already e-published one of my stories, having purchased photographs from a skilled wildlife photographer. I decided I wanted to do my own illustrations and pencils grew from my hands.

I doodle all the time, if I am not using my hands for anything else. It seems to be a point of fascination in meetings at work, with the mistaken belief that I am not listening, until I say something precisely on point. Doodling keeps my anxiety, at being in a room full of people, at bay. It keeps my “busy mind” occupied, so I can focus on the discussion. More on doodling another time

When my drawing and thoughts of tattoos coincided, I realised that I needed to draw my own tattoos. I had always wanted a tattoo but never liked anyone’s artwork enough to have it needled into my flesh. I started drawing tattoo ideas.

Butterflies are one of my many favourite things. I drew butterfly after butterfly while I searched for an artist whose tattoos I liked. Found one, showed her my drawings, discussed exactly where I wanted it and we were away. I let her have free reign and we were both happy with the result. Original artwork, inspired by my own art, etched into my skin.

The really interesting thing was it didn’t hurt. Not one bit. I had researched where the least painful parts of the body were for tattooing and knew that I wanted to give my hump wings (you know the hump at the back of the neck that comes from too much slouching and reading). It was just right.

I knew that I wanted my next tattoo, knew what I wanted it to be and figured out an approximate cost. I decided they would be an annual birthday gift to myself. The next tattoo was of a seahorse with wings. I played with this image for a long time and came across another artist closer to home. I visited her at the studio and liked her, her art and the studio more. Her take on my design was more appropriate for a tattoo. My drawings and paintings were much softer, her’s are striking. I love my winged seahorse, he divinely sits on my back right shoulder, waiting patiently.

This year I had a round-bellied, silver teapot with a flannel flower design needled into my skin and I discovered that when you tattoo your non-dominant side, it hurts, rather a lot. I am right handed and the work on the back of my neck and my right shoulder became intense but not at all painful. The teapot was painful. Very. It is also perfect.

I have been wondering why I am willing to endure the needles, hours of it, wounding my skin for the image to be permanently placed there. I feel the wounding is necessary as the wound heals and in its place there is an image of my own artwork, on my skin. This is uplifting and delighting in a way I don’t quite know how to express. Every time I catch a glimpse of my work (and I look a lot), I am pleased all over again.

There are many associations with each of the images I have placed. They are also part of what will be a whole piece when I am done. I don’t know that I will ever put my tatts in a place for others to see easily. The only time others see them is in summer or when I am in my bathers (as I swim frequently, they are frequently seen, usually by the grey-haired set, keeping their curls dry. That’s another story.). I don’t have tattoos for others, I have them for myself. Each piece and placement has more than one significance. The next piece will be on the painful side too. I’ve already drawn it.

One question I am often asked is why they are on my upper back where I can’t see them? I can see my upper back by turning my head or looking in the mirror. Don’t other people look at their backs? The pieces are for me, not anyone else. They signify things for me. They elicit a range of stories, memories and concepts for me that are pleasurable. Isn’t it curious that people seem to think I have created them for others? I confess to not really understanding that. They are mine, I know they are there, I know what they signify and I know the whole piece it will become.

This is artwork designed by me, inspired by my design that I get to wear. It has taken more than half my life to get to this place and there is such freedom in it.