Can something other than practicing the art/science of storytelling can make you better at it?

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Aaron Sorkin, who really needs no introduction, suggested that one way to be successful as a storyteller is to be a ‘diagnostician’.

That is, the art of pinpointing exactly ‘why’ something is or isn’t. Picking the story apart to its component parts and putting it together again.

Understanding the ‘why’ is where consumption of others’ stories turns into a useful tool to hone your own storytelling skill.

There are a few reasons why playing diagnostician with the stories you consume can be helpful:

  • It broadens your horizons and introduces you to new ideas and techniques
  • It makes you pay attention…

The mechanics behind many apps are designed to keep you hooked. Here’s how to break the habit.

Photo by Reid Zura on Unsplash

Pull on the handle of a slot machine and watch in anticipation as the three pictures line up next to each other. Inevitably, this time it’s not a win — or perhaps a very small one. So you pull the lever again.

On a smaller scale, your finger is doing the same when you’re refreshing your Instagram feed — you’re not really winning here either, but you’re seeing new content from your customised feed. You receive just enough to keep you engaged here, too.

This intentional design puts you in a calm, inattentive state. The cycle of anticipation and feedback…

Whether it’s building a new habit, or completing a project — keeping yourself accountable is a proven success tactic

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

This is called the Intention-Behaviour gap, observed in many scenarios from New Year’s resolutions to gym routines and charity donations. I’m sure you can think of many examples — how many things have you started and never finished? (I can hear all my half-written short stories calling out to me right now.)

Building habits is hard — that much has been scientifically proven. One reason is that motivation alone is difficult to sustain in the long term.

Behavioural science tells us that motivation wanes rather quickly. The initial excitement of learning a new language or martial art may be enough…

I explore the more unusual choices to help improve concentration and boost inspiration.

Blue headphones resting on grass
Blue headphones resting on grass
Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

It’s taken me a long time to get this right. For me, and for you I’m sure, music plays a major role in evoking emotion — whether it’s to get excited before a workout, to release, to relax, to get inspired. I also find that listening to music can greatly improve my concentration.

Still, I found that while working, and writing specifically, the requirements for what I listen to are harder to pinpoint. Eventually I’ve come up with the list below. Whatever I listen to needs to be…

  • Long, so I don’t break concentration to pick the next song or…

A metaphor that summarises my ongoing adventures of “adulthood”, whatever that is.

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

During school and university I felt as if I were commandeering a ship floating down a river. I could see land on both sides, I could see far ahead and where the path was leading. If there was a choice, I could see and decide where to go, knowing roughly what I was signing up for.

I could see other ships and whether they were further ahead or behind me. Navigating meant having to weave between rocks and not getting too close to the edges. And if I couldn’t steer too well, the river would just carry me along.


Are you concerned about your story being original? I am too. But maybe we shouldn’t be.

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

When writing, I am often overly conscious of ideas I may be re-using or recycling from other works. When I spot one, I feel a tinge of disappointment, perhaps even of guilt. There’s an implicit association of originality = good, emulation = bad in my mind, and having spoken to fellow writers, they too, to varying degrees, feel the same way. I end up spending a lot of brain power to avoid plot lines that are too similar to ones I know — and sometimes wondering if that is even worth it? Does it even matter? …

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Let me explain!

We as humans have been playing games for as long as our species existed — and though the first video game may have been invented in 1958, the first game ever could have been in the Palaeolithic era and been called “let’s see if I can hit that tiger with this rock”.

Now we’re heading towards making games feel more and more realistic (see Street Cleaning Simulator, which is a real thing), or through VR, or through real human stories weaved into the narrative. …

Why people hang on to false beliefs and why simply telling people the truth (usually) doesn’t work.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I wonder how much of the 6 or so hours the average person spends on the internet in the western world is taken up by arguing.

I should acknowledge that most of it is done by trolls and people throwing out ridiculous text snippets under the guise of anonymity (probably). Yet still one incident sticks out in my mind. I was having an argument with someone on Reddit (who was probably in the above categories of internet persona), where they claimed that poverty didn’t exist in the UK. …

…about work-related or personal life-related adventures alike.

Photo by Alex Chambers on Unsplash

Look am I a cool blogger now because I do listicles? Also mandatory disclaimer that I am in no way an expert in Dungeons & Dragons but rather a newbie Dungeon Master (any tips and advice are appreciated!). More importantly I’m no expert on life either. Below are a few connections I’d made and maybe you’ll find them fun to read.

1. Roll for a strength check…

Shit happens even in the world of role playing games.

Here, you thought, is a great idea: make an awe-inspiring leap over a fire, and slay the monster by slicing them clean in half. Then you roll the dice…

Credit: Unsplash

Think of all the entities you think you trust. Some obvious human candidates would make the list — parents, children, partners, best friends. Are there also man-made entities you trust — your bank, your phone, your car? Perhaps your favourite brands too?

Trust may seem an inherently human thing — difficult to gain, and so easy to lose…but there are also “trust manufacturers” who aim to form a connection with you as a consumer. They almost invariably seek this connection for their own gain, and though this phenomenon isn’t new, the current environment certainly heightens the stakes. Long gone are…

Polina Stepanova

Here to fuel my curiosity, share insight and write for fun. Passionate about storytelling, behavioural science, tech, gaming and assorted geeky matters.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store