Q&A: What, in my view, is the power of storytelling?

Q&A: What, in my view, is the power of storytelling?

As busy as life can get, I aim to publish an answer to a reader’s question every month. Here’s a transcript of my answer to one of my favorite readers’ questions about my love for stories:

Hi Lisanne, thanks for answering these readers’ questions every month. What is it about storytelling that is so exciting to you?

I have always loved stories, whether reading books, hearing tall tales from friends, or listening to words of wisdom from my parents.

At 6 years old, I was already immensely drawn to my parent’s bookshelf, even though I couldn’t read properly yet. These wooden pieces of furniture reached our ceiling and largely filled the spacious attic room as they held a huge, carefully stored collection of books.

To ensure that every book would fit, my parents organized it in such a way that, with the help of double rows, they skillfully utilized every single corner. Every now and then, I would go upstairs and select a book, carefully inspecting its cover, immersing myself in the illustrations, inhaling the scent of the pages, and then letting my imagination spin tales woven around its contents.

In the years that followed, books never let go of me. I’ve repeatedly tried to grasp and articulate my deep love for stories but rather failed so far to capture it in exact words. An excitement to it has been present with me, ever since I was a little kid. Over the years, I’ve started to think that the tension in this excitement is meant simply to be enjoyed.

In my view, literature is about immersing oneself in stories that enable us to better understand other people, ourselves, or the world around us. Books have often challenged me to think deeper and reflect. Much of what I know now has emerged from the works of the many writers who came before me. Great authors have articulated what I may have thought before but could never find the right words for.

As an avid reader, I have always been fascinated by how literature and movies both seem to have this ability to transport us to different times, places, and perspectives. It allows us to inhabit the minds of the characters and witness their triumphs, struggles, and transformations. It broadens our horizons, provides solace, or helps us connect with the complexity of human emotions. It’s magical to me how a writer can ignite the imagination and create entire worlds in the reader’s mind — worlds that may never physically exist.

Countless books have left a lasting impression on me, offering me different ways to see the world. The power of literature lies in its ability to temporarily place the reader in someone else’s shoes. Although the fate of the main characters doesn’t necessarily have to mirror my own, there are always universal passages that remind us that as humanity, we have more in common than we sometimes realize.

Through storytelling, we can understand ourselves better and find our commonality with others. We can share passions, hardships, embarrassments, joys, griefs, and our overall human experience. By listening or reading stories we can connect and feel less alone in the world.

Film director Martin Scorsese refers to movies as the memories of our generation and that’s in many ways true. Literature is a valuable asset for the current generation of readers, but certainly also for the generations to come. Through powerful storytelling, we can gain profound insight into the past and the diverse experiences of people.

Take, for example, the essayist James Baldwin, whose works have provided us with an enlightening glimpse into the America of the 1950s, vividly articulating the lived experiences of people of color. These works uniquely capture a specific moment in time, and through these writings, we can travel back and understand where we come from. They give voice to stories that might otherwise be lost.

So in my opinion, there is nothing more exciting and fulfilling about consuming stories or crafting them. It’s very much connected to the love of the art form, the craftsmanship that goes into the writing, the excitement of learning something new, and the encouragement one can feel once you figure out your struggle can be found in others too.

So thank you for your question, I hope this answers your question a bit.

• • •


Thank you for reading. This reader’s question is part of the Ask Me Anything series. I’d love to answer more of your interesting questions and get a sense of your interests. If you have questions to extend this Ask Me Anything section, please let me know. I like to hear from you. Send me your question via team@lisanneswart.com

Here is a list of the last 3 readers’ questions I’ve answered:

» Explore more answers to thought-provoking questions from readers




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