The story, the telling, the sharing, the listening

Perhaps this is overkill, but I want to make sure I mention the differences between story and storytelling, in particular, for it is an essential distinction between process and product in my work with communities. I discuss the difference early on in storytelling workshops, putting emphasis on the immediate and potentially sustained impact of the process and the enduring quality of well-told and recorded stories.

STORY: the actual object. It can be extended, amended, revised, discussed, linked, combined, responded to, etc.

STORYSHARING: an informal, even impromptu, swapping of stories that we do at the dinner table or in exercises designed to be fluid, in the moment. Storysharers are often interrupted by listeners who add to, correct, ask questions, laugh, or comment. Very useful at the opening of workshops, courses, as well as threaded through a community of practice’s work.

STORYTELLING: an intentional act of communication of a particular story. The actual process has something in common with Storysharing but is more formal in that someone has prepared for the moment, perhaps intending for the story to be caught; the process may be multi-stepped, the audience present or not, the telling in real-time or recorded. Storytelling forms the backbone of community story projects, for it builds community and story, simultaneously.

STORYCATCHING: the act of listening to and/or documenting a story told by someone else. It can occur in realtime, in situ or not. In discussing catching, we consider the role of active listening from story swaps to formal interviews, as well as the difference between catching someone else’s story and recreating it as our own version of the story.


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