I’ve said it before, but I like to refresh this little welcome. Sure, I’ve spent over 20 years sharing stages and microphones with some of the smartest people in the world, but I also know angry linguists and strung out biologists living in rented vans. The point is, I live a life rooted in storytelling, screenwriting, and television, and it’s riddled with brainiacs, cultural anomalies, and beloved successful friends in glorious command of celebrated ticks and syndromes. So I’d like to think I’m in a perfect position to Solve Your Problems with Storytelling. Send me a note sometime. Stop getting in the way of me helping you help me help you. Never ask me for financial advice, though. I will bankrupt you.
I love hosting guests and sharing stories, and I’ve found that by having different guests over but sharing the same story I get better at it. This is great because now I can tell one story about my friend swinging an ax into his foot with good timing and without the frivolous details. This is bad because my fiancé has heard the story roughly 200 times. How do I master this story so that — when inevitably invited to a dinner party full of dignitaries — I can recant this tale to perfection without ruining my life?
I feel like this is just part of being in a relationship. It’s a bit like being in a band together for ages, or being in a play together that’s touring through so many stages. Night after night, there is the audience, the people hearing it for the first time. Ideally, they’re spellbound and unaware that last night it was Cleveland whose faces were lit barely and beautifully as they let this brand new night wash over them. And before that it was Seattle not noticing the little mistake you silently noted and promised yourself to work on. Before that, it was another audience or dinner party, and on, and on, stretching back two hundred or two thousand nights, the little scraps of memories you save of each night for as far as you can see; faces, words, rhythm. And yeah, the person next to you, or off in the kitchen, or in a little backstage room or wing, has heard the magic before. It’s not the first night for them. We’ve all got our own story to tell, and we all have a fix we’re in, a solution to which we also need to rehearse and refine. And that fix is: we need to stay interested in what we’re lucky to be a part of, night after night, for so long. We can stand next to beautiful moments so often that after a while, if we’re not careful, we catch ourselves yawning while miracles play out beside us. Here’s the thing, Reese: you can practice silently in your head, but it still wouldn’t relieve anyone of that fix we’re all in. Reading my reply back again, I wish I would’ve been cooler and more clever. I got all emotional about it. In fairness, you’re reading this for the first time — you should’ve seen some of the emotional garbage and mistakes I cut out on my second or third pass.
FROM: Ben S
TO: Dan Kennedy Storytelling <email@example.com>
DATE: Wed, Sep 23, 2020 at 8:33 PM
SUBJECT: Why do people make such a big deal about periods?
I have to say that I respect the commitment to brevity here, but was a little disappointed that your entire note and question was summed up the in the subject line but anyway you asked about periods and why people make such a big deal about them and I suppose you’ve already detected that I’m making a point here but let me go one step further and be sure that I’m covering all of the bases and also tell you that periods punctuate. Everything. From sentences to moods to time and life so set aside a moment and consider that.
I’m going to do my little storytelling sign-off now. Which is, let’s see…
“Don’t live somebody else’s life story, and don’t be an extra in the background of your own.”
— Dan Kennedy
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