Heart-Lifting for Disheartening Times – Storytelling as an UMBRELLA Term…

It’s all so overwhelming and it seems everyone is tired, discouraged, maybe angry or cynical or depressed, maybe confused or disheartened…just weary.
Each day during this April A-Z Blogging Challenge I’ll offer a short musing on an aspect or two of the many ways the ancient-yet-very-contemporary experience of storytelling – both listening and telling – is an enjoyable, fortifying and heart-lifting practice, for anyone!

U – Storytelling as an Umbrella…alas!

But why do I say “alas!” (an expression of grief or concern)?!

Well, because I know the power and joy of the activity and specific art form of storytelling – and over the past 34 years of my career, I’ve found that people are very often unfamiliar with and skeptical of the notion that storytelling even IS an art form and a worthwhile practice…not to mention that it offers powerful and joyful experiences!

And so especially in our American culture, which does not commonly embrace and practice traditional oral storytelling as many other cultures do, it is misleading and diluting to constantly use the word storytelling as an UMBRELLA term for every way of communicating a story…It’s crowded under there! 

…As popularly-used Wikipedia says, “The term ‘storytelling’ can refer specifically to oral storytelling – but also broadly to techniques used in other media to unfold or disclose the narrative of a story.”

Hence: UMBRELLA Term… “a term to cover a wide-ranging subject rather than one specific item.” Alas.

It has long seemed to me that to apply “storytelling” or “storyteller” to all the other (distinct-on-their-own) art forms is to attempt to give the highest compliment…

  • “the choreography is storytelling at its best!”
  • “that movie director is a master storyteller!”
  • “this picture really tells a story!”
  • “that novel is masterful storytelling!”

…which speaks to knowing deep down how powerful STORYTELLING actually is!

But…dance and cinema and painting and writing…are their own art forms, with their own techniques and expressions.

Storytelling is “the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.” (National Storytelling Network [NSN] definition)

To use “storytelling” as an UMBRELLA term for virtually all artforms – as well as for marketing and business strategies and gimmicks, which is so common now – dilutes and distorts understanding of the gifts and powers of storytelling itself. Alas!

And hmmm…after all, when you think about it, actual UMBRELLAS are most commonly designed and intended, and in some cases only usable, for individuals. Of course there are large ones for beaches, patios, gatherings…but most umbrellas are for single individuals to use. (We may try to share umbrellas, squeezing two people under one…but the outside shoulders are never covered and get plenty wet!).

So let’s learn about and celebrate the goodness of the single, specific art form and heart-lifting practice of storytelling!  🙂

Thanks for reading – Pam

Umbrella photos from top photo on down by Christian Tagalog, Rohan Reddy, Marcio Chagas, Atilla Bingol, and roman ten, all on Unsplash.