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#2 Story Looking as Sensemaking

We continue the countdown, exploring 3 insights I have harvested from the process of writing Creating Stillness in the last days before the book is officially born. Yesterday we explored the connection between our attention and energy and today we turn our inquiry towards stories.

Story Looking



(a page from my stitch journal that had strong story vibes ;)

The last thing I published before this book was academic research about storytelling. During that project I sifted through research from every discipline imaginable trying to understand how, and if, stories can help us change. What I learned through this work is that stories are powerful tools to help people make sense of the world. So, when I started writing Creating Stillness, I searched everywhere looking for the perfect stories to help explore how creativity and mindfulness work together.

In the book I tell all kinds of stories to help illustrate ideas like one about the longest marathon every run to explore how we define ourselves, what the wolves in Yellowstone can teach us about fear, the story of a mixed-race trapeze artist from the 1800’s named Miss Lala to help us explore the in-between, and a lesson from the very first film every shown as a way to explore awareness (just a few of the many stories from history I share!) I also told stories about clients that I have worked with over the course of my career and their art, like Jeff and his Godzilla installation, Pam and her prickly red anger, Jenna and her flipping hands and body movements amongst many others. I also told my own stories about my anxiety and how paper cuts help me find peace, how a boulder I found at the top of a mountain became a symbol of understanding my ego, and how some messy moth sketches born from my imagination helped me understand my place in the world. I also encourage you (the reader) to find your own stories through the creative invitations in Part 2 of the book!

At one point after I had finished writing I began to have regrets, wondering if my overzealous love of stories was “too much!” I began to question if telling stories was sometimes just me grasping at straws, a desperate attempt to make sense of things when maybe there wasn’t anything there. I worried that in my fixed attempt to find, and tell stories that maybe somethings didn’t have stories to tell, that I was pushing a false frame onto some things that can’t be boxed in. But the book was completed, final edits ensued and over the next year all the behind the scenes work of publishing ran its course.

This gave me time to sit with this all before the book came out and I started to reflect more and challenge my affinity for stories…

Does every piece of art we make have meaning?

Does every creation have a story to tell?

Do some insights I hold defy being reduced to a story, or does telling it in the form of a story in fact enhance and add to it?

Then over the last few months advance readers began to read the book and the comments were always about the stories! Different stories resonating with people in different ways. I would be in a zoom call, and someone would notice a piece of art in the background that I told a story about in the book and they would instantly connect to it. Right now, it seems like the stories are what most resonate with people… and this has assuaged my fears and made me double down on the power of stories.

What I found through the process of searching for, and writing so many stories is that everything tells a story, and every insight has a story to be told. Stories are our helpers, weaving together our emotions, sensations, ideas, past, present, future, relationships and more all into little packages of sense- when we land on an insight it often wraps itself around a story.

Maybe the bigger question is who cares, how does this help you or me in everyday life?

This is my simple conclusion…. if we can go looking for, and help, make stories about our creations or parts of our lives, we can know them in new ways. But we have to be willing to birth the story, and by that, I mean we have to be willing to let it come from us and through us or it will fall by the wayside.

What does that old sketch in your art journal have to say?

Does that unfinished project hold meaning for you or is it truly just an unfinished creation?

What symbols, ideas, and stories can help us to express an insight about what grief feels like, where hope lives, what it means to be a mother, or the full experience of being a brother?

I think that part 2 in each lesson in life is to find a story, perhaps only to help you make sense of the complexity of being alive, but maybe also to communicate it and find connection with others. Part 3 is to then hold space that this story may need to change (a concept I explore more formally in my book.)

If we don’t go “story looking” what insights might be left hiding from us, not fully integrated into us, fully processed, harvested, and made sense of?

Try it.

- Look at the last thing you created- a painting, knitting project, loaf of bread, poem etc. Head to you journal and write down the story of this creation? If it had a voice and could speak to you, what would it say is its role in the broader context of your life story is?

- What is the number one insight, or life lesson that you found last year? Now what story from your life, fiction, history, or otherwards captures that lesson? Imagine you are having tea with a dear old friend and sharing the story of that insight with them what would you tell them?

- Survey your home, look at objects you own, everything from the mundane to the special. What story do each of these objects tell about you, the world you live, what you know, are learning, or matters most to you. Choose one of these objects and write its story in one quick paragraph in your journal.

The more you practice “story looking” the more you will experience how helpful this practice is in helping you connect with and make sense of your life.

My eyes are always scanning my world looking for stories. Capturing them, writing them down, sharing them with others. It has become a way of being for me and I am so glad my overzealous affinity for stories found its way into my book, in fact I think it’s what I am most proud of.

The countdown continues tomorrow with the last lesson that focuses on feedback from others….

Thanks for being here ❤️

Only 2 days left to Purchase Creating Stillness and receive the 3-part video course Creative Endurance for free!

Grab it here!


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