47 to 35: Storytelling

Once I got my wheels under me a bit with my sleep, diet, and general mental health, things started rolling along a lot smoother. Publishing here for a few weeks at least gave me an anchor, a weekly checkin. I dropped over 20 pounds of extra baggage, my back started to improve, and my energy levels started to rise. I felt myself coming back to life in my work after a significant career shift, some serious burnout, and a long vacation had me a bit on cruise control for a few months there. And I found myself leaving work with fuel still in the tank, with new ideas and inspirations and positivity.

This is where my writing, and this idea of storytelling, collided with another train of thoughts I’ve been playing with for a long time now: how can I share more about the things I think about most with more people? I wrote a post for my company’s Eng blog a while back that I never quite got ready for publication. I’ve spoken a few times at a few small events, and enjoyed it, and got some positive feedback. But writing is hard, it takes time and energy, and I just haven’t been moving this story forward much in years.

Painting by David Sheldon

It’s an obvious collision in retrospect, but I didn’t immediately realize what was going on. On the one hand, I have this vague notion of storytelling and the importance of content and creativity in modern life. And on the other hand, I have all these highly technical, interesting but at best highly niche ideas that I wanted to find a way to get out there. And for whatever reason, both these thoughts just coexisted in my head for a while, not really meeting.

So I was talking about some of my speaking ideas, and there’s definitely some interesting thoughts, but they’re not tied together in a meaningful way and it’s all playing out in a pretty familiar, uninspiring direction. And the person I’m speaking to kinda stops me and says, among some other feedback, “What’s your story? What is the story you have to tell?”

And then he suggests to me I read Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, which is a tweetstorm by Emma Coats which is really quite a good read. So, a few days later, I’m reading through it, and I just start writing. And I write a good portion of a short story about software engineering that I call Hatching a Golden Opportunity which is kinda cute, kinda true, and probably some of the most meaningful writing I’ve done about the craft.

The thing is, storytelling is all around us, constantly. We all do it, consciously or not, intentionally or not, with every conversation and with the close we pick out in the morning and with the face we show the world when nobody’s looking. It’s so fundamental a part of being human that it’s easy to not even notice it, a constant undercurrent of whos and whys and hows that underlies everything that we do.

So, yea, those lines of thought converged, and I’ve been thinking more and more about how, as you climb in just about any craft, your success begins to rely on your ability to effectively convey the story that you need to tell. And so now there’s that, another story that I want to tell, and a new lens through which to view all the other thoughts that I’ve been trying to condense into words.

Still not sure where this is all going, but this is a pretty decent statement of where my head was at in week 47.