5 Things I've Learned about Storytelling

CreativeLive with Close To My Heart

I'm blogging today from Seattle as I sit at the back of a CreativeLive studio. I was invited by my dear friends at Close To My Heart (CTMH) to fly over and teach a short, 20-minute segment on the importance of telling our stories. The crazy thing is my Keynote slides didn't get loaded in the production room, so when I stood up to talk, there were no slides and I had to wing it, live! I don't really have a hard time talking, but this was a test of my professionalism, because I REALLY wanted to make a "T" with my hands and shout  "Time Out!" I presented a couple weeks ago at the CTMH Album Retreat in Salt Lake City, Utah, so I tweaked my message there for my segment today. As I look back on 20+ years working in the scrapbooking industry, there are a few things I've learned about storytelling that will help you stay focused on what matters. 

Here are some of my slides from today.
You can click on any of these images to see an enlarged version. 

ONE. Forget catching up!
Just start. Start anywhere. Stop when you're bored and pick up somewhere else. 

It used to be possible to take, print and scrap all of your good photos. This is no longer possible or even remotely realistic, so if your harboring guilt over the fact that you have a child or teen without a baby book, let it go! Here's an idea: Combine one baby photo of all of your children on one page. Add their birthdates and call it good. Now, move on to something that you feel more passionate about, right now. If you're bored with your current approach to scrapbooking, change it up. One thing I love about Close To My Heart are all the options their products provide. There is truly something for every kind of crafter. The important thing is to keep on keeping on. 


TWO. Some stories take time. 
Learn to get the story down bit by bit as it is triggered. Responding to inspiration is a skill. 

I say this over and over, but there is a huge difference between scrapbooking pictures and scrapbooking memories or stories. Once you give yourself permission to NOT scrapbook all or even most of the events and everyday moments that you photograph, you'll start to see other really cool stories unfolding all around you. This is a page that documents several connected experiences that I've combined with the title Stacy Julie. I am often mistakingly called Julie, most likely because of my last name. I have also been mistaken for Julie Andrews and have had people tell me multiple times that I remind them of her. I once won first place at a Sound of Music sing-a-long at the Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle. The audience picked me, by applause as the best Maria look-a-like! This is the kind of story that can fall through the cracks in your storytelling, if you're documenting just the photos. Start noticing how memories are triggered for you, and then pay attention and develop the skill to jot down notes that will allow you to curate connected experiences across time. 

THREE. Record the details. 
At least some of the time, write exactly what happened. Detailed words are more important than the right photo!

When we moved into our home we had a mice problem. One Sunday morning I found a little mouse swimming in some left over banana shake that I had left in my blender. This is one of those crazy, little stories that gets shared over and over again, so I wrote it out in great detail and tucked it behind this page in that green envelope on the right side. I don't have a photo taken of that particular day, so I used another photo, from another mouse encounter. In my opinion it is better to record a detailed story than to have precisely the right photo. 

FOUR. Focus on people. 
People and relationships matter most. Describe who they are and how you're connected and why it matters!

I cannot emphasis this lesson enough. Please allow yourself to step away from your stash of pictures (digital or not) often enough to see the importance of writing about the people you love. This page features a short note typed to each member of my family at the beginning of 2012. The small photo of me is all the visual needed, because the focus is on those words that communicate specific details and feelings for these people of mine. 

FIVE. Not all photos are created equal.
Some photos are worth more and it's because they are rare and/or story-rich. 

Why are rubies more valuable than sand? Because, rubies are rare and sand is not. Most of us who enjoy taking pictures have in the neighborhood of 30,000 digital images sitting on our computers (and hopefully archived somehow in the cloud) these images are sand. Two generations ago, photos were expensive to create and rare, so they were immeasurably valuable. Not anymore. We can increase the value of some of these photos, by adding personal stories. Personal stories are unique and therefore rare. The photo on this page is not a good photo. It isn't. Most of the time we look past these photos, because they won't stand out on our pages. But, this photo is the ONLY picture I have of me in this UofW sweatshirt. The story: Peter gave it to me the night he broke up with me. I was wearing it in the physics lab on the day that Geoff first spoke to me. He said this, "Is the W for Washington or Wisconsin?" We have now been married for 25 years. The rarity of this photo makes it valuable. So, one of a kind photos and one of a kind stories. This is how you sift through the sand and create some scrapbook rubies. 

How weird to quote myself right?
But, this is what I have learned and continue to learn. In ONE generation, the pretty pages with the pretty pictures and no words will have limited ability to transmit meaning. In two generations—your grandchildren and their children—photos on pretty pages might be enjoyed, but they won't be valued like they should, because your grandchildren won't be able to connect to them. Connection is created by shared experience and stories. In two generations, the memory will no longer be a shared experience, but it can be a story, if you take the time to write it. 

Remember that. 

p.s. To watch the (forever) FREE Scrapbooking, Paper Crafting, Stamping and More class, taught by Close To My Heart and hosted at CreativeLive, click HERE