Writing vs. Storytelling

Good morning, Blogosphere!

In my high school chemistry class, my teacher had us write stories (yes, stories, not formal reports) about one element from the periodic table. I don’t know if we were assigned our elements at random, but we were assigned them. My element: californium (Cf). My reaction: disappointed. If I had taken high school chemistry during the Age of Memes, I might have thought, “WTF?!” Why couldn’t I get a cool element like oxygen (O) or gold (Au; and yes, I’m a bit of a science nerd). If I had gotten argon (Ar), I could have filled the book with pirate puns (I am also puntastic).

But I got californium, an element that most people don’t know or care about. That got me thinking, and my overactive imagination got me personifying californium is ways I never thought possible (although it is a radioactive element, so who knows what it’s capable of?). I wrote a story about a califorium atom disappointed with its life and feeling like it’s not good for anything, so it travels the country looking for its purpose. Not only does it find that it is useful for things (neutron radiography, anyone?), but it also finds other lesser known elements that it can bond with (but NOT chemical bond with!)

In hindsight, I think this could be a pretty awesome children’s book series introducing kids to the elements of the periodic table. I’m going to have to get on that.

Anyway, when it came time for my chemistry teacher to pass back our books, there were some she kept. One of them was mine. Apparently, she had liked a few of the stories so much that she’d taken them home to read to her daughters. This may have been the highlight of my year, as evidenced by my rambling about it some ten-ish years later.

So what’s my point with this long-winded introduction? I love story-telling. I like writing, but I really love, love, love story-telling. It dictates how I interact with the world and how I interact with others. And although I’ve occasionally shared my creative writing, and almost every time people have responded very positively, I’ve always been hesitant to share the stories I come up with.

Now my non-creative writing (e.g. essays), I share more readily. I have no hesitations with writing or posting this particular entry to my blog, because it’s just my thoughts. No hang-ups with sharing those. But there’s something about sharing my creativity that’s very…personal. As a private person stuck in a increasingly public world, taking the step toward sharing my stories to a broad audience is a processes that I don’t always like.

To explain what I mean by personal, I’m going to share another story (because that’s what I do). I’m in grad school for school psychology (more on that later, maybe probably). One of the things my classmates and I are trained to do is administer and score a protective assessment called the Thematic Apperception Test. Now I love this assessment. The kids often hate it; I love it.

For this assessment, you show a series of pictures to the child/client and ask him or her to tell you a story that explains the picture. Are you seeing why I love this assessment? Before I was trained in it, I had the opportunity to take it myself. I was shown 8 pictures, I created 8 stories. I was weirdly proud of several of them. At the end, I was thinking, “This is great! Can I do more?”

Then I learned how to score the stories, went back to mine, and realized that well, shoot, I’m a crazy person. Okay, not really. But scoring and analyzing the stories is very important. I won’t go into the details, but the assessment draws on your natural inclinations for certain topics, certain details, certain ways of thinking, feeling, doing. Essentially it draws on your personality, and it’s considered a personality assessment.

That’s where my hang-up is. I’m not sharing my personality when I share essays and the like. But any good storyteller puts a piece of him- or herself into each story. It’s a personal process. When I share my stories, I share myself. Even if the scene is a situation I’d never be in or the characters act in ways I never would. The ideas come from my personal imagination and the story is shaped by the way I view, make sense of, and understand the world. It can be intimidating to share that when you’re a private person, especially when you’re sharing it on a larger scale with people who aren’t necessarily in your inner circle.

I have to get over that hang-up, and that’s where this blog comes in.



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