Connecting Creativity and Storytelling

I’ve been interested in the relationship between creativity and storytelling since I began my experimental foray into crafts this past summer.

I further explored the connection in a discussion with Annette Simmons related to her new interest in painting.

I was thus recently interested in an interview Michael Margolis did with Michelle James on Storytelling and the Creative Process. (At this writing, the podcast has been taken down because it had technical issues, but check back to see if it comes back up.) I was able to listen to about half of the interview.

Michelle, who is CEO of The Center for Creative Emergence, notes that the creative process is nonlinear and is about pushing boundaries.

In the portion of the podcast I listened to, I picked up two threads connecting creativity with storytelling:

  • Creative people can expand the limited stories they carry about themselves.
  • Story-based activities can facilitate creative thinking.

A common limited creativity story that creative people carry, James notes, is one in which creativity is split from income-generation, and the creative person is constantly balancing and compromising to reconcile those two sides of the story. The questions James poses include, “How can we create a new, larger story where you can both create and generate income?” and “How can you expand the story to include all the aspects you want?”

That’s one I can certainly relate to. I wish all my income could come from writing this blog, writing books, and working with my hands. I am slowly working on expanding my story.

One way to expand the story, James says, is to accept your current reality, but add something news, such as in the well-known, “Yes, and …” exercise, in which one partner proposes and activity, and the other partner — instead of rejecting it — expands it by saying “Yes, and let’s [do something that goes beyond the activity you proposed.”] Instead of automatically poo-pooing an idea and saying it won’t work, you expand your framework, do something to break your pattern and unstick yourself.

“Be willing to expand beyond what you already know,” James suggests. “Base your story on where your energy is coming from.”

Story-related activities that get creative juices flowing, she says, include those that feature right-brained visual thinking. James suggests anthropomorphizing inanimate objects and giving them a voice, as well as acting out concepts.

In group workshops, James asks participants to tell a 30-second story of their name. Another activity involves telling stories about things participants know to a partner and then looking for “deeper, shadow aspects,” such as beliefs, stories, and assumptions. Especially in organizations, the question then becomes, “What new story do we want to move into?”

A very quick glimpse at the articles on Michelle’s site doesn’t reveal a whole lot about story, but inspiration for creative people is plentiful.

Oh, and a little update on my creative pursuits: I wussed out of having a sale of my creations this fall. The date I planned for the sale sneaked up on me and just felt a little too real. Yes, I had a tiny fear that people would regard my handiwork as crap, but the bigger part of backing out was a practical view that a sale would be more successful in the spring. I’ll also now see how it feels not to have this creative outlet during the colder months.