Friday, March 07, 2014

Storytelling 101: Step One—Your Story

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/125
Why should someone trust you with their story if you cannot tell your own story?  You must be able to tell your own story before you can tell another person's story.
Acts 1:8
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other.”
Since the church has been telling stories for centuries and doing so very well I am using the storytelling that it uses to teach the principles of good storytelling.

In the Christian church when one makes a decision to follow Christ it is done so by a statement of faith. Many of the denominations do this during a confirmation class. To help people formulate their statement often questions are used to help formulate their thoughts.  Here is one example:

Some questions to think about: 
1. What ways have you seen God work in your life?
2. Are there events that tested your faith?
3. How did an event draw you closer to God or maybe kept you further away?
4. How was your spiritual life strengthened (weakened) at that moment?
5. What is important to you about being a Christian?
6. What is important to you about being Presbyterian?
7. What hopes do you have for being a member…ways you would like
to serve, gifts you bring, ways you want to grow?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
The power of a first hand witness is their authority. As long as they speak on what they know rather than speculation then there is real power in their testimony.

One of the best examples in the Bible is this one.
John 9:25
New International Version (NIV)
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
While the lawyers were questioning this former blind man, because he stayed with what he knew the power of the testimony is irrefutable.  The power of the story is the before and after. The man was blind before he met Jesus and after Jesus healed him he could see.

One sentence is the testimony.

What's your story?

Do not expect others to share their stories with you if you are not willing to share your own story. We do this every day. You meet someone for the first time and through the process of introduction you either do a great job of telling your story or a poor one.

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/2.8, 1/100
One of the best ways to learn how to tell your story is to read others. In the church we even sing songs that help us practice storytelling.  Here is one that is a great example of storytelling. It is called Jesus is all the world to me.  Here are the words:
Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
My Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and
He gives them o’er and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain,
He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I’ll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right,
He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night,
He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
Life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend,
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He’s my Friend.
Here is my challenge to you, create an elevator speech that is 2 — 3 minutes long.  It is not an elevator pitch to land work, it is your story.

Here is my story

I was born with Autism. I did not speak until I was three years old. It would be well into my adult years that I would finally learn that I had Asperger Syndrome. People with Asperger syndrome can find it harder to read the signals that most of us take for granted. This means they find it more difficult to communicate and interact with others which can lead to high levels of anxiety and confusion. 

Most of my life I have felt a real disconnect with people. While there are similarities with autism, people with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking and are often of average, or above average, intelligence. My difficulties early on were with speech. I had to have tutoring to work on my pronunciation and reading was extremely difficult for me early on in my school years.

While in high school I felt this call to go into the ministry. In hindsight this could not of been the poorest choice I could have made based on my Aspergers.  My father who was a minister recommended I either get an undergraduate degree in business or social work. He said that churches would want you to have a master of divinity degree and majoring in religion for undergraduate would be repetitive. 

I chose social work and I am so grateful I did. Social work helped to train me in how relationships work and what is important in healthy relationships. While in college I was taking photos for the school and had an uncle who was a former photojournalist and had a portrait studio.

I would take my work to him for review to get better in my hobby. The combination of studying body language and interpersonal communication skills in social work combined with my uncle teaching me how to capture these moments with the camera were instrumental in my being a photojournalist today.

I believe that it was due to God calling me into this profession which was to use my greatest weakness of communicating and interacting with others as a strength. You see for me to communicate I must really work at it. It isn't something that just happens. I approach communication from my head and not my heart. I must really work at thinking through a process and why it should work. I cannot take it for granted, because the way I am wired I am very likely to screw it up.

Aspergers people learn best by seeing relationships and using the camera I was able to break this down into decisive moments and even what I call micro expressions.

Because I had to break down each element and then learn to recognize it later to capture it with the camera I am now able to teach this skill to others. Because I am really sensitive to attitudes of people I have learned to pick up on this when teaching and ask questions to be sure the student and I are together.

One of the traits of Aspergers is the ability to learn complex concepts easily but yet struggling with easy skills. Over time I learned I must work at the details, because they are important.

My lifelong struggle with Aspergers was managed through years of learning and people with compassion that mentored me. Today my strongest gift for teaching visual storytelling came from my weakness due to Aspergers.

It is from my brokeness of Aspergers that I must get up each day and work hard. It is not something that is curable. This has helped me to be more patient with others who struggle to learn these concepts.  My weakness is now my strength.

So, What's your story?

If you tell your story the best you can, then it will invite people to want to know more. Isn't this what we want to do with our photos?

I was taught that if I make a really effective photo, then the audience will want to read the caption. If the caption is written really effectively, then the reader will want to continue to the story.

WARNING!! When you tell your story effectively you will become transparent. It is the transparency that engages the audience more than what the story is about.