I think it’s safe to say that the last month and a half has been an intense time. You can use several words to describe it, actually. Uncertain. Distressing. Emotional. Pick your adjective! And if you’re a storyteller, I’ll bet that you’re observing, absorbing, and storing until it feels like you’re going to burst. (Not everyone does that, by the way...) But even in times like these, when it feels like doom is crouched and ready to pounce, your role as a storyteller is critically important to your family, your community, and your own inner well-being. Here’s why I think storytelling in times of trouble can be so meaningful:
To Offer Comfort in Times of Trouble
Have you browsed #bookstagram lately? The feed is brimming with cozy, comforting reads. If you’re reading this blog, then I’m sure you already know how the stressful seasons of life can drive you toward the comfort of a well-loved book. Even if it’s a book that’s new to you, a comforting theme can feel like a familiar friend.
Do you have a list of favorite fiction for distressing days? Here’s my short list:
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. A family draws close in the shadow of a nuclear threat, while their youngest goes on a dangerous mission to right an old wrong.
- Robin McKinley’s books: Beauty, The Hero and the Crown, and The Blue Sword. Strong, flawed, relatable female characters with imaginative plots and fascinating settings.
- C. S. Lewis’sSpace Trilogy. Perelandra is still the most terrifying, most beautiful book I’ve ever read.
To Offer Truth in Times of Trouble
A few years ago, I met S.D. Smith (no relation, ha!) at a writing conference. We chatted for a few minutes and I bought The Green Ember for my cousin, who was in late elementary school at the time. (Let’s be honest. With that lush cover? I wanted to read it, too.) After I finished the book, I thought, “Wow. This book isn’t really about rabbits–it’s about courage!” It left me thinking, for many days after, about its theme, and about courage in the face of certain defeat. I mean, rabbits aren’t really known for their bravery, right? So maybe those of us who don’t feel brave can still find a way to fight forward?
When writers can tuck big ideas into an entertaining story, the truths will stay with us long after we turn the final page. That’s why so many teachers use parables and stories to pass on principles to their students. Ideas that have stood firm and true over time can guide us through our own storms, like a North Star winking through the clouds.
To Offer Hope in Times of Trouble
One thing fear does is force us to shrink our time horizons. When the future feels too dangerous or dreadful to even consider, shorten it. Bring it closer. Don’t think about next week, next month, or the wreckage of your five-year-plan. (There’s a good viral video about this, here.)
You can also WRITE.
If it’s too painful or difficult to write about your experience, start a new project. Decide to write something that’s longer than what you’ve written before. If you’ve been crafting haiku on restaurant napkins, write a collection of poems. Or if you’ve been writing poetry, write a short story. If you’re comfortable with short stories, begin a novella or a book. And if you’re a novelist, plan out a series. (Related Post: How to Start Writing a Book)
Without saying so many words, you’re telling your subconscious, “Look, we’re going to make it. We’re going to survive and finish this project, then share it. Others will read it and respond. Whatever else happens, these things are in our future, and we will get there.” Your subconscious is a shrewd and capable pilot, and can take a lot more responsibility than we give it credit for handling.
Shorten your horizons, but write a little each day and plan to finish. This can comfort and inspire you during times of trouble, and shine hope with the promise of better days ahead.
I hope this post finds you doing well, and that the worst difficulties of this year lie behind you. But if you’re still stuck in the middle of the mess, take heart. You’re a storyteller; you can comfort yourself and those around you, using the power of story. Hang in there, friend!
NOW YOU: What are your favorite stories for times of trouble?
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