Defining Storytelling and Leveraging My Passion for It

Recently, storyteller Eric James Wolf turned the tables on me. I’ve conducted more than 57 Q&As with story practitioners — and now Eric has done a Q&A with me. I thought it would be worthwhile to excerpt some of it here because it explains some of my philosophies and approaches with this blog.

In this entry, Eric asked me how I define “storytelling” and why I’m interested in it:

I am among the storytelling fans who do not like to be boxed in by a specific definition of “story” or “storytelling.” I’ve found in the more than 57 interviews I’ve conducted with storytelling practitioners that most of them, perhaps surprisingly, prefer not to define “storytelling.” (However, a few feel a strict definition is vitally important.) Of the definitions offered by the practitioners who prefer to define story/storytelling, I’ve liked some more than others. One of my favorites is: “Story is context.”

I think I have been interested in storytelling for most of my life, but I didn’t really recognize the passion until I began my PhD program. I was taking an organizational-behavior course that focused on postmodernism. While researching the concept of postmodernism, I discovered an entire academic (and applied) discipline I had never heard of: organizational storytelling. This field instantly resonated with me, causing me to realize how much I had always loved storytelling, going back to eating up the anecdotes in Reader’s Digest as a child. I was so intrigued by organizational storytelling that I made it the centerpiece of my doctoral dissertation, which combined my professional background in career management and job search with storytelling.

While in my PhD program, I started [this] blog as part of my coursework. As I completed my doctoral program, my storytelling interests began to expand. Organizational storytelling was too narrow to encompass my interests, so I broadened the blog’s scope — and my own passions — to the field of “applied storytelling,” a term I first heard from Michael Margolis.

My work on the blog was sporadic for its first three years; I would go long stretches without blogging. But in February of 2008, I made a commitment to blog 7 days a week. I have mostly lived up to that commitment, although I have skipped some days during my recent major, cross-country move.