Storytelling

NYU Storytelling Seminar Reflection Paper
11/20/09

Truth be told – when I signed up for this seminar I picked it because it was only one credit and it rounded out my credit requirements for the semester. I thought storytelling was interesting, but I didn’t see how it applied to my educational aspirations and career goals. Boy was I wrong! I can honestly say that the seminar has overwhelmingly exceeded my expectations. Not a day has gone by in which I didn’t apply an aspect of the storytelling lessons to my everyday life.
For instance, the day after the seminar I had been hired to babysit for my neighbor. Bedtime rolled around and the outraged toddler was on the verge of throwing a massive temper tantrum.  I tried to bribe her with her favorite book, which she completely rejected and threw across the floor. Thinking about the seminar from the night before, I had a light bulb moment. I asked her, “Would you like to hear a new story about my friend Mr. Wiggle?” She exploded into a fit of giggles, stating, “That’s a silly name!” Long story short, I had her in the palm of my hand as I reenacted the tale of Mr. Wiggle. She agreed to go to sleep because Mr. Wiggle slept in the story. Crises averted. The next day her mother called to ask about this Mr. Wiggle that her daughter wouldn’t stop talking about. Weeks later, I babysat this 3 year old again and she was delighted to tell me the story of Mr. Wiggle. I was shocked that she was able to recall so many details of the story. It was a “real life” affirmation of the lessons that Regina gave. People remember details when given in story form.
The storytelling games and activities were extremely helpful to me as well. I’m a writer and I have already used several of the “story prompts” to aid me in my writing. They are perfect when I experience the dreaded “writer’s block”. I especially like the activity that we used to incorporate things we saw overnight into a story. I appreciate these types of activities and I believe they will be useful in my career when I will be working with students to write their own scenes or monologues.
I have been able to integrate storytelling into other aspects of my life as well. I am always astonished watching my boyfriend interact in professional settings and group situations. I tease him that he has a “golden tongue”. It seems like when he talks he has his audience hanging on every word. When he is talking about business proposals, new ideas and concepts, he always makes a story out of it. He is extremely animated, convincing and confident when he speaks and seems to always get his way. I’m extremely jealous of his “gift of the gab” and often find myself trying to mimic his mannerisms, to no avail. When Regina taught us some techniques about storytelling I was excited to experience an “ah ha!” moment. She had specifically told us about the importance of descriptive details when we tell our stories.  I immediately thought about my failed attempts at storytelling and public speaking. In my efforts to engage my audience with a story, I rush over the most important part. The details! I now realize that I was too self-conscious to indulge my listeners in the details on the story. Before this class, when I told stories I thought it was more important to focus on the arc of the story rather than waste time by focusing on the details. I would get frustrated when my listeners seemed to only be “half-listening” and I couldn’t figure out why! I now understand how wrong I was in my assumption.
The most important tool I have taken away from this seminar is my new found wisdom to be expressive, descriptive and detailed in my storytelling. It has helped me in every aspect of my life: talking in front of a classroom; public speaking; dinner conversations; job interviews; auditions; writing papers; playwriting…. the list goes on and on! This seminar has proven to be an invaluable gift in helping me express myself.

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