The smooth, thin comic books littered my bedroom floor at least once a month. I probably spent about four hours re-reading about the battles of Raphael and his ninja turtle brothers. Being 12 wasn’t easy back then—I guess not for any of us in middle school—but one reliable escape method was always the adventures I found in library books and comics. Brushing past trees in the great wilderness or gazing at the glittering stars outside of a spaceship were some of the adventures I imagined. My other favorite activity was creating my own comic stories and illustrating brand new characters. I was definitely the messy artist with colored pencils and pens galore.
Even as adults, stories still captivate us. Whether we view them on ESPN, in the movie theater or hear them from a friend at a lunch meeting, a good story is very engaging. When it comes to our businesses and how we interact with consumers, our message should be clear and engaging as well. Hence, whether a startup or full-fledged enterprise, telling the story of our businesses is crucial to success and profitability.
You read three books, 20 blog posts and maybe even attend a few workshops on the art of business storytelling. Then, you finally sit down to revamp your marketing strategy or shape your email campaign, only to find that the final product feels like a stick figure in the midst of Picasso’s painting gallery.
Most beginning storytellers take two steps forward and three steps back. It is normal to begin with confidence and then become overwhelmed with things like details and framework. Our motivation can go out the window. Some entrepreneurs try again. Some give up and hire help.
Whatever the case is, just calm down and breathe.
Four Tips Before You Start Your Story
The main message I wanted to share with you is simple encouragement and four tips to keep in mind:
- Practice makes perfect. This is an obvious one but true. Don’t give up so early. Practice. As with anything else, doing a new activity over and over means a step closer to the final product.
- Dissect stories around you. Take a simple short story—or even your kid’s episode of Ducktales—and find four story concepts such as a protagonist, antagonist, conflict and resolution. The more you do this, the more you’ll see a story pattern. Noticing the everyday stories all around you can also make storytelling less intimidating.
- Remember the basics. When all the information and advice out there overwhelms you, simplify things. Keep your message simple. A story is about characters, conflict and resolution.
- Be a kid again. Sometimes to gain a different perspective and new ideas, we have to look at things differently. Imagine a chunk of dried red dirt, solid enough to take the shape of a rock but fragile enough to crumble if squeezed hard enough. We, the adults, just see plain dirt but a child sees so much more: A dirt grenade to export to their soldier’s fort; A lost stegosaurus egg needing its mother.
Don’t be afraid to play and have fun. When I started writing fiction—in addition to business writing—I felt silly at first creating and having characters talk to each other, but then they really came to life. It was exactly like playing with dolls and action figures again but on paper. Having no inhibitions and taking risks while trying out a new idea can go a very long way. Besides creativity means thinking outside the box
When it comes to making stories, I don’t think anyone needs to be intimidated. You may have a rough start but don’t give up. That inner child’s creativity is still there.
Stories and characters from the past still live on in me. I can still draw in an entire ninja turtle in 30 seconds flat. Although this drawing talent has earned me the coolest mom award amongst my son’s second-grade friends, I know it’s a spark from another time that hasn’t left me completely. I can still tap into it if I really try and focus…and believe in magic once again.
Everyone is a storyteller. If you need extra help or direction delivering yours, I can help you.
Otherwise, tap into your inner marketing wizard, wave that wand and craft a powerful brand story that would make even Harry Potter green with envy.