One of the most powerful storytelling techniques used by storytellers and teachers and presenters around the world is, ironically, not talking. Silence. Stillness. A Pause.
When we tell a story, we are planting seeds for images that will grow in the listener. We sow them left and right – here there and everywhere and if you’ve ever tried to watch a little seed take root, you’ll understand that such things cannot happen while you watch them. A seed will sit and sit and sit so long as you are determined to “catch” the moment it pushes out a taproot. It will not happen because it is waiting for you to look away and do something else – to engage in some other activity – to NOT be engaged in watching seeds take root.
This is the pause. It is an out breath – a moment of sleep where the listener can allow the previous image to take root and become a part of their being. The storyteller stops talking and waits as well. He or she waits until there is a moment of integration and solidity – when the listeners’ shoulders drop and they shift just a little. This subtle cue says that the listener is ready for the next image – the next bit of delicious narrative.
So I encourage you to be quiet. Say “Once upon a time there was a donkey…” and then dont’ say anything. Wait. Wait. Wait and then when your listener shifts just a little, say more about the donkey. But don’t say anything until they show that they have successfully integrated the image “donkey” before you move on. It also gives the storyteller a moment to learn something – to see how the image “donkey” has landed. Perhaps the story should go in a different direction than initially planned. Perhaps you yourself learn something about the donkey.
There are many ways for an entire family to pause. A weekend, a sabbath, a 'holy week', a 'screen free' week. It is a time of sleep and some time away from a certain kind of attention. We have a week away from it and breath out.
Then we can begin anew – and perhaps have learned something in the process.
About the Author
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.