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What Keeps a Storyteller Going?




In many ways, we performing storytellers don’t live easy lives.

We get up early, pack the car, and drive to our audiences...

We spend years developing our skills and our repertory. We figure out how to find audiences. Most of us spend countless hours on the phone arranging performances and negotiating what we’ll tell.

Then we get up early (or stay up late), pack the car, drive to our audiences (or to an airport), and deal with the sound systems, the noisy auditoriums, the sometimes poorly planned events. And then we repeat the process again and again.

Oh, and did I mention that the pay is often low?

So, why do we do all that? What’s in it for us?

Riding the Racehorse

I remember my first time to perform as a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN.

Photo of a performance in a tent at the National Storytelling Festival

The audience had been listening to stories for two days straight. Their response was immediate and strong!

On Friday and Saturday, I told in short sets: 12 to 30 minutes at a time.

Then came 1pm on Sunday: my solo hour. My listeners were primed and ready. They had been listening to stories for two days straight.

I began my first story and felt awe. The audience’s response was immediate and strong! As the performance went on, I adjusted happily to their amazing responsiveness. It was like spending an hour horseback riding, in perfect unity with a powerful, sensitive thoroughbred in its prime. Wow!

Last in Line

After my set (and the applause) was over, a line of people formed, waiting to thank me individually for the particular ways in which I had touched them.

After 30 years, I remember one person in that line.

He was the last in line. He was perhaps 30, slight of build, wearing a worn, long-sleeve denim shirt. He looked to me like he came from the rural South.

When nearly everyone else had left the tent, he stood about 5 feet from me, as though he were too shy to come nearer. I took one step closer to him and looked in his eyes. They were wide open and moist.

I waited. At last he said, “Things have been kind of hard.” He sounded choked up.

I nodded and waited again.

He said, “Those were some stories I needed to hear.” He began to cry.

I stepped forward, put my arms around him, and held him gently for a few minutes.

Then he stepped back, locked eyes with me for a second or two, smiled, and turned and left.

The Gift

I never saw him again or learned what he had found in my stories that day.

But I didn’t need to. I had received from him a precious gift, perhaps the most precious a teller can receive.

He let me know that I had given him what he most needed that day, that my stories had touched him in the exact way he had needed to be touched – that, in their mysterious way, the stories had spoken through me a message perhaps unknown to me.

The Reason?

Isn’t that what keeps so many of us at storytelling? Sure, most of us love the applause, the attention, the chance to hold sway. But those things aren’t the deepest motivators.

My deepest motivation became visible that day in Tennessee, in that one man’s face: storytelling gives me a chance to give people something they need. It gives me the feeling of offering just the right thing, of being the right person at the right time.

That feeling doesn’t depend on all my listeners being generous enough to tell me what it was like for them. In fact, the more often I feel it happening, the more I learn to sense it – to know that, even when no one thanks me for it, someone in the crowd has received a unique gift.

That’s what keeps me coming back. That’s what keeps me going as a storyteller.

What about you? I welcome your reasons at


Over the years, I learned that I can give people just what they need by performing – but also by other ways.

I discovered the joy of teaching about storytelling, of helping people find the “missing second leg” in their communication, the leg that propels the heart and the imagination, not just the intellect.

I also learned the joy of coaching, of helping other tellers to overcome obstacles they face in their storytelling, helping them move closer to being the unique tellers that only they can become.

Help Others Learn to Help Others?

They I began to think: If meeting people’s unique needs is my prime motivation, and if I can learn multiple ways to meet people’s needs, then could I maybe help other tellers get that same satisfaction, using their unique gifts in new ways, too?

I tried multiple approaches, from “mastermind groups” to four-month, online courses with 20 people.

But last year, I pioneered a new approach: a telephone plus web course with only 6 people. The small number meant that, in the 6 sessions of the course, I could schedule two coaching sessions for EACH participant (one of them for a full hour) as well as two meaty lessons.

Better yet, the group of 6 would gain from hearing each other be coached to make such significant progress. They would become a mini-community of people learning to use their storytelling skills to meet customers’ needs in unique ways.

Course Starting in October

I am offering such a phone/web course again this fall. Its six sessions will begin the first week of October and be over by the Thanksgiving holiday.

logo for the course, "How to create an irresistible offer..."

Learn to use your gifts in new ways - without leaving home

It may happen, of course, that not every participant gets the coaching they need in the first 6 sessions. If that happens, we’ll schedule additional meetings in January. I promise to give enough coaching (in the class or privately) that each of you in the course will:

1. Discover a group (a market) who is hungry for what you have to offer;
2. Create the title and outline of a digital product that will attract just the people in that group.

(If you want further help in actually creating the digital product from your outline and offering it to members of your new market, additional optional courses will follow in the winter and spring. In fact, with one of the additional courses, I will offer free websites optimized to help you reach your market.)

Save By Just Asking for an Application

To make this $795 course more affordable to you – and to encourage you to sign up early – I’m offering an Early Bird Special discount.

All you need to do to lock in your discount is to request a simple, 5-question application. Just click the large button toward the end of this web page:

You may want to read the page, even if you’re not interested in the course at this time. It contains useful information about how to “get off the storytelling treadmill” by adding to your storytelling income.

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