On a recent trip to Edinburgh I stumbled across the most amazing bookshop I’ve ever had the joy of being in. Every single inch of the shop was covered in books. Old and new, poetry and prose, fairy-tales and fact, from floor to ceiling. There was just enough room to wind through and round the shop and you almost missed the owner, stereo-typically spectacled with a mop of mad hair, sitting among piles of books with a till steeped high upon a set of classics. Everywhere you looked there were more books to discover. It was as if the shelves were made of books and the walls surrounding them too. The only thing I could see that wasn’t made out of paper were the precariously placed lights stuck into corners and wedged in between genres. I could have spent a whole day in there discovering hidden gems and swooning over first editions.
Just being around those books, the history of it — it was like magic. I may be alone in this but places like that little book shop ignite in me such a joy for stories. Not for the pretty covers or the sheer volumes (although I do adore these too) but the thought of the people who have discovered these stories, the lives that have been impacted by a single book,the imaginations that have been sparked and all the other stories that have been inspired as a result.
Stories are powerful things. They’re the best way to teach, inspire, and even understand ourselves. Afterall, we’re all made up of stories. Each day a sentence, each week a paragraph, each year a chapter making up the books of our lives. Stories are a not so secret weapon that we get to share with others. They do us good, they inspire, they motivate, the shape and change us. It’s because of this that in my work as a fundraiser I know that I need to become a better storyteller. Stories are what capture people’s hearts and engage people’s minds. When you share a story you are giving away a part of yourself, opening yourself up like a book, spilling out inky emotions. You can’t ignore a real story that pulls at your heart strings, that stirs your soul as stories are innately human.
I also recently read an article online (okay, it was in a trashy magazine) about how the jobs of the future are being completely shaped by technology that isn’t even created yet. The bit that stuck out to me was that Google are working on a technology that writes it’s own stories. It reminded me of the fact that if you have an infinite amount of apes on an infinite amount of typewriters eventually they will produce the complete works of Shakespeare. I can’t really get my head around this and I think that’s because, in all honesty, I don’t want it to be possible. I don’t want an infinite of monkeys to be able to accomplish what Shakespeare did and I don’t want Google to start writing bestsellers with no human input. It’s not what stories are about.
Across time and culture, stories have been agents of personal transformation — in part because they change our brains. Stories leap frog technology and go straight to the brain. Stories are the tortoise to the hare of technology. Stories are the threads that stitch us all together. We argue with stories, internally or out loud. We talk back. We praise. We denounce. Every story is the beginning of a conversation, with ourselves as well as with others. I reckon we all need to become better storytellers. Not in order to create a false appearance or stretch the truth but to facilitate an authenticity and a community where we share our ideas, desires and dreams.
I didn’t buy a book from that shop in Edinburgh but it sparked up the nostalgia of the magic that stories contain and inspired me to tell better stories.