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eTips from the Storytelling Coach - Number 13

Sneezes, Stories, and Pulling Together

December, 2001

eTips is a free, monthly electronic newsletter from Doug Lipman. You can subscribe, unsubscribe, or read a more detailed description of the newsletter at the eTips page. You can also read the other back issues.




Jewish tradition respects the spiritual importance of the body. One teaching says that there are three physical things that give us a taste of the "World to Come": sex, sneezing, and urination. The idea is that these experiences of pleasure and relief give us a momentary intimation of what, in a perfect world, will be a constant experience.

The days following September 11 gave us a taste of something that may be possible to achieve here on earth. In the aftermath of the tragedies, we got a glimpse - shrouded as it was with shock and grief - of the possibility of having extraordinary mutual support. The heroism of the emergency workers, the lines of volunteers offering blood, the willingness of people throughout our country and abroad to donate supplies and assistance - all this gave an inkling of our human capacity for pulling together, for truly HAVING each other.

How to Be Stronger

The hunger for pulling together is still alive.

Ten days ago, I led a 3 1/2 day workshop in Schenectady, NY, called "Coaching Coaches." Each of the eight participants had a chance to coach someone else, then be coached by me on their coaching. The combination of a splendid group of experienced coaches, the structure for supporting each other both as tellers and as coaches, and, perhaps, the lingering feeling of September 11 led the group to a palpable sense of mutual support.

By the end, everyone could feel how our connections expanded us. We felt braver and stronger as we looked at the opportunity to use our web of support to help us all live bigger lives.

This sense of "having" each other - of knowing that we can count on each other for mutual encouragement and support - is a human possibility that our society seems, by and large, not to encourage. Rather, many centrifugal forces pull us into ever smaller units that each seek extreme independence, even isolation - and therefore do not achieve their true strength.

Three Tools for Connection

Fortunately, storytelling is a tool for making us profoundly connected. By itself, it's not enough to change our society. But it can help.

Every time we tell a story that reveals our essential self, with respect and love for our listeners, we give us all a whiff of deeper connection.

Whenever we draw stories out of people and encourage them to find their voices, we demonstrate our potential for honoring each other's strengths.

And whenever we coach people with the intention of helping them find and express their own meanings - not to show that we are smart or right - we help the "World to Come" grow out of the world of today.

Helping You By Being Me

"Having" each other fully does not mean losing our selves. On the contary, we need to be even more who we are, if we are to offer ourselves to others. We need to be ourselves physically, emotionally, and artistically.

In storytelling, we commonly express our individuality in our choice of stories, our styles of telling, our resonance with certain kinds of listeners, and much more.

Recently, I recorded a video about vocal work for storytellers. Even in this very physical aspect of storytelling, being fully myself is essential for becoming deeply connected with others.

For example, a key to voice work is relaxation. But I can't relax if I'm busy trying to be something I'm not. For me, a downward spiral of tension starts when I try to be "more Jewish" for a Jewish audience, "more corporate" for executives, or "more like an entertainer" at a festival.

What I've learned through voice work is that I have to work with the body I have. I have to let myself have the voice that I have. I have to let myself be quirky when I'm quirky, embarrassing when I'm embarrassing, and brilliant in the places where I'm brilliant. That's the only way that MY voice...the one that only I have...can be heard.

Storytelling, I believe, has the potential to help us do something we yearn in our heart of hearts to do. It can help us both be ourselves and pull together, on every level, including the physical. Then, supported by a strong net of interconnection, we can become something that this world has only tasted.

(For more about the specifics of voice work, read on.)


Do you speak as part of your work?

Many of us neglect our voice, assuming it will always be there, giving little thought to what it needs in order to remain supple, healthy, and expressive.

As a teacher, coach, and performing storyteller for over 30 years, I have had to learn how to nurture my voice. I learned from teachers, classes, other storytellers, books - and brute-force experience.

For the first time, I'm putting together my key learnings about voice work for storytellers: everything you need to know to preserve and enhance your voice. The result will include two videos, two audio recordings (in both cassette and CD format), an illustrated booklet, a poster, and a pocket warm-up guide.

I don't just give you pat advice. Rather, I give you the information and tools you'll need to make your own decisions. Each of us has a different voice; each will face different situations and different problems. This Toolkit is meant to give you what you need in order to make the best decisions for you and your voice, taking into account the individuality of your voice, style, circumstances, and intentions.

The Storyteller's Voice-Care Toolkit(tm) contains an entire vocal warmup (an exercise video for your voice!). Beyond that, it answers these questions:

  • How do I create character voices that I can sustain?
  • How can I be heard in a crowd without straining?
  • What if I only have a few minutes to warm up?
  • How should I care for my throat while performing?
  • How can my voice express powerful emotions?
  • What kinds of food should I avoid before speaking?
  • And many more....

    Bonus Warm-Ups

    Includes the bonus "car warm-up," as well as the one-minute "silent warm-up" - that you can do while sitting in the audience or at a meeting. You'll never need to strain your voice again.

    For more about the Toolkit - and how to save $50 with the Pre-Publication Special - read the full description on the web (or ask me to email it to you):

    You can order this via phone, fax, mail, email, or on the web:

    The Toolkit is completely guaranteed. You can get your money back at any time. So don't miss this time-limited chance to get the entire Toolkit for less than the cost of a single voice lesson!

    All the best, Doug

    P.S., Email me for one or both of these, or view them on the web:




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    This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
    Copyright©2001 Doug Lipman