To most, storytelling is a job or a hobby. To others, it’s a vocation. While all three come with benefits, vocational storytellers sacrifice the most to hone their craft. They trade living-in-the-moment for the acuity to capture that moment. In other words, vocational storytellers remove themselves from active participation in an event to observe it passively. And while being a vocational storyteller has made me a better communicator, I frequently find myself as more of a student of life as opposed to a participant in it. As a result, it’s hard to lose myself in any moment because I fear missing an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of it.
About ten years ago, my wife and two teenage children were sitting at a sidewalk restaurant table. As happens all too frequently, my mind wandered away from the conversation and to a small bird walking on the concrete. Something about the way the bird’s head rocked back and forth caught my attention, and after careful study, I realized that its head bobbed twice for every step it took. For example, if the bird’s head came forward as it planted its left foot, it would rock back then return just as its right foot hit the ground. The bird’s head bobbed twice for every step it took.
That’s when I heard my family snickering. “Earth to Dad,” my daughter said, interrupting my daydream. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a family that accepts my peculiarities and can keep me grounded through some good-natured ribbing– so much so that, to this day, every time they catch me living out-of-the-moment, they drag me back in by referring to the incident. “Dad, are you trying to figure out how birds walk again?”
So, you wanna be a storyteller? Excellent. I welcome you to one of the world’s most eclectic groups. Now you have a decision to make. Which subgroup will you choose: hobby, job, or vocation? There’s no wrong answer. All can be excellent communicators. Just understand that if you choose to take the sacred vows of vocation, you’ll need to make sacrifices to reap its vast rewards. You’ll need to trade living life in-the-moment for the deep focus required to describe it.
But, before I scare you off, know that with great sacrifice comes great benefits. A well-written story will warm your soul like nothing else can…well, at least until you start writing the next one.
Photo Credit: Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. Feeding the pigeons, Boston Common. Boston Boston. Massachusetts United States, None. [Circa between 1910 and 1920] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016812264/.