Homework for Life

My dad is a storyteller. He tells stories all the time, be it from the pulpit as a preacher and teacher of the Bible or in his normal day-to-day goings on. These stories are not works of fiction either. They are just bits and pieces of the everyday framed in a way that always draws me in. This model of telling stories has been a constant in my life and yet I have not mastered the skill myself.

Today, while scrolling through my podcast feed, I saw an episode of The Art of Manliness called, How To Tell Better Stories and I immediately downloaded it and began to listen. Our host, Brett McKay, interviews Matthew Dicks, who is a well-known teller of stories, both on the stage and in book form.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as I usually do with the Art of Manliness. I wrote down a number of things that struck me in my Field Notes notebook of the day, the 10th Anniversary burgundy DDC reprint.

Mr. Dicks first went on stage as part of a Moth StorySLAM and despite his nerves, he really connected with the experience and the storytelling practice. In this interview, he gets down to basics, explaining his ideas on how to start (with the end in mind) and how to make it memorable by keeping it short and removing details that don’t add to the story.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway was his “Homework for Life” idea. This is his method of sitting down at the end of each day and writing down the one thing that was most important from the day, the thing that was most story worthy. In doing so, he has found a way to remember each day and to slow life down. It changed the way he looks at each day and gives him plenty of great material to tell more stories.

After listening, I went and found the TED Talk that he gave on this topic and I highly recommend taking the 17 or so minutes to watch it. Of particular note to me were his words about being disciplined and having faith in the process. Whether writing it down in a notebook or putting it in an Excel spreadsheet, taking stock of your day is incredibly valuable. It may just help me become the storyteller that I want to be.