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194: The Integration of Storytelling Into Creative Practice

Stories are powerful. Full stop. 

  • Stories help us connect our ideas to the world in succinct and memorable ways. 

  • Stories help us convey emotion and get people to care about our ideas, building bridges where there may have been a wall before.

  • Stories enable complexity and multiple truths to exist where human nature wants to simplify and categorize for understanding.

Echo is a storytelling company based out of Vancouver, BC and I stumbled upon their work several years ago. Here is a list they compiled about their approach: 


  1. Storytelling and history are not the same.

  2. Facts and dates are important. But without emotion it’s not a story; it’s just a very long CV.

  3. A beginning has only one job: to hook your audience and make them want to read or watch more.

  4. “Paradise on a Sunday afternoon sounds great, but it sure is boring on film.” — director Nils Malmros

  5. It’s not easier to be brief, but for your busy audience it’s almost always the right thing to do.

  6. If you insist you’ve never stumbled, nobody will believe you anyway.

  7. The right details are what distinguish a memorable story from a forgettable one.

  8. People who believe and tell the same stories are bonded by common values.

  9. Storytelling rules work because they stimulate, not stifle, creativity.

  10. People are interested in what you did, but they are riveted by why you did it.”

Over the last number of semesters, I’ve brought this list into a graduate-level classroom, asking for their agreement or disagreement with each of these statements. We travel down the list as a class, voting one way or the other and then debating each side. I’m always surprised at how polarized even ‘hard truths’ or statements developed by specialists in a given field can be. This is not a bad thing; it’s quite the opposite. It leaves me hungry for more thoughts and opinions, about topics that I believe I understand quite well, conversations like this giving rise to podcast series where I travel down rabbit holes, not unlike this one. It also reinforces my understanding that right and wrong don’t exist in creative work in the same way that they may show up in other parts of daily living. There are always unique and valid opinions on both sides of their debate, with stories used to share their opinions about storytelling. 

In the spirit of healthy debate, here is one item from the aforementioned list that I disagree with and one that I agree with, as it relates to this storytelling podcast series.

The statement that I disagree with is this: “It’s not easier to be brief, but for your busy audience it’s almost always the right thing to do.”

I believe that this statement is highly contextual. Yes, I agree that if you want to communicate a message quickly on the side of a billboard or in a social media post, where you have a fraction of a second to capture the attention of your audience, brevity makes complete sense. However, if you want to dive deep into a topic or share your creative 500-page work of fiction with the world, for example, long form content may be exactly what’s right in context.

The statement that I agree with (and that resonates most accurately with the content of this episode) is this: “The right details are what distinguish a memorable story from a forgettable one.”

I wanted to better understand some ways in which artists and designers in the series use stories in their unique creative disciplines. So I asked each person this next question: How do you integrate storytelling into your creative practice, and what role does it play in shaping your vision? 

The right details seem to come up again and again as a theme that weaves all of these individuals into a cohesive narrative. So let’s hear how a 3D Environment Artist, Drag Artist & Professor of Creativity, Visual Note Taker, Brand Identity Designer, Singer-Songwriter-Producer, Visual Artist & Writer, Tattoo Artist, Author & Teacher, as well as Breathwork Facilitator & Writer integrate storytelling in their creative practices.

In the next episode, I pose the question: Are there specific themes or motifs that consistently appear in your work, and if so, how do they contribute to the overall narrative you're trying to convey?

To be continued…


Meet the 9 Creatives Featured in This Series


Sound & Music Credits

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