Sunday, October 24, 2010

What is Storytelling: Thinking About What I Do

A friend of mine recently posted a small Facebook update about his work in pursuing his PhD. He is at the stage now where it is no longer just a dream but is actually close enough to be seen just over the metaphorical horizon. In his post, he posted the a long description of his PhD work and then tongue-in-cheek asked "And what are *you* doing?"

"What am I doing?"
That is not a hard question for me as a professional Storyteller. As well, to give credit, Limor's Storytelling Agora posting really pushed this post to the front for me.

What I am doing is
teaching all these folks with a "D" in their titles how to speak about their complex ideas so that the rest of the world can understand them. My clients come with all kinds of doctorates: JD, MD, PhD, PharmD, DMin and so forth.

I do not just train
the "D's" in storytelling technqiques. Some of my clients have "M's" and "B's" in their titles. Many have no titles at all. Some are still in elementary, high school or college.

What do I do as a storyteller?
Only a small percentage of my time as a working teller is actually involved in telling stories. Mostly, lately, I am training my clients how to speak their truths and content in a way that their audience can grasp and understand. As these others get the basics, the stories get deeper and more complex. Not everyone is a "D" nor should they be.

Complex ideas need to be expressed
in Story. Business to classroom to stage to home, I teach people to do just that.

This "how" is done through Story.
While I prefer storytelling, there are many ways to express Story. The new buzzword is "transmedia storytelling" As a storyteller and an artist first, I am open to the many ways to express Story, but only storytelling is storytelling. If you cannot see your audience and interact with them, allowing them to be cocreators in that singular moment of the Story, then you are not storytelling. You might be doing another equally important and useful art form. However, you will not be storytelling.

Let me clarify what I mean.
All dance is dance. But Tap dance is not Ballet. All Story is Story. Reading a book aloud is not Storytelling. These expressions of art are equal, different and needed.

Some of my expression of Story has been in writing.
My "DaddyTeller" book and workshops are a way to reach dads (moms, too) to urge them to fully engage with their children with by using storytelling. My "Storytelling 101" workbook is a bedrock "how to" of Storytelling essentials. My free Ecourse teaches folks some more tips for storytelling one piece at a time. I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts. I have two more books in different stages of development. I am the director of where we were talking about storytelling online even before Google existed.

Back in 2008, I did a project
where I posted a near-daily update and picture of my work as a storyteller. It's at . That is a singular snapshot of one year. Every year is different. Every year has new clients. Every year is another unfolding of Story and storytelling for me.

I have been doing this since 1986.
I have paid my dues enough to be able to put forth theories, understandings and definitions. I am also enough of an artist to know that life is rather fluid and tomorrow is another chance to see what I have not seen before. You can agree or disagree with the ideas I have. It is okay

This post is not ego.
It is clarification for some future posts and projects. Storytelling has burned in my bones for 25 years and it has lit more than its share of fires.

I wonder
if this is an "Artist Statement?"

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.


  1. Feels kind of nice to get this out on a page, doesn't it? eventually, a lifetime of complexity turns into a simple story. Those are the best.

    Only storytelling is storytelling and it's not counter of anything else. I love the feeling that comes with this acknowledgment.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Well, I am with you. I guess what is driving some of this right now, for me, is the inferred comments that if I am to have a definition for storytelling, then I must be "rarefied" or keeping out others.

    No way. This table has plenty good room for everyone- and it is in knowing what we do that frees up to to explore other distinct arts.

    Please don't pass me the turkey when I asked for potatoes. "But it's all food..."