What's Your Story?

I’m a mixed bag. On the one side, I have been producing television in various forms more than 18 years. On the other side, I’ve been producing web sites for almost 11 years. I’ve also worked in communications off and on over that time, everything from writing government proposals to developing strategies for V.P’s at large high tech companies. I’m fortunate that I’m able to combine media production of all kinds into one, fulfilling career.

But strip away the technology – be it the video editing suite, the inner workings of a web portal, or the text on the screen for the next revision of a management plan – and what is left? Stories.

It’s really that simple. When people ask what I do, I could go into a big long list of all the areas in which I work, and everything I do in my non-work life. But break it down, and it’s all just storytelling. In my free time, I like to write songs and blog posts. Stories. In my work time, I make TV shows and commercials – more stories. I also design web sites – still more stories. So perhaps, my business card should say nothing more than, Susan Murphy – Storyteller.

And when you really think about it – what we are all doing in this social media space is storytelling too.

The obvious stories are in people’s blog posts. But what about the comments? Aren’t those stories too? Actually, you could liken it to one of those “choose your own adventure” books that I loved when I was a kid. You post something on your blog, and see what ensues. You can’t predict what others are going to contribute, so it’s always a new adventure.

Twitter is a marathon of a story, written by thousands of people each contributing in snippets of 140 characters or less. It has a bit of a “choose your own adventure” feel too, since everyone’s Twitter timeline is unique, based on the people they follow.

Video is my first love, and it is the epitome of storytelling, in my opinion. It could be as simple as a video blog post, or as complex as a feature length documentary. Video is the only medium in which storytellers can combine moving pictures, sound, graphics, animation and text to tell their tales. It’s all encompassing. And now, this powerful medium is readily accessible to anyone with a web cam and a story to tell. To me, that’s thrilling.

So here we are. Out on the Interwebs, telling stories. But here’s the critical difference with the Web. Not only are we sharing our own stories with others, we are creating new stories with each other. Now that we can reach across the world in a heartbeat, in any medium, just imagine the kind of stories we can create.

What’s your story?

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  • October 1, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Great post!

    I came to the same sort of realization a few years ago too, when I looked back at my career and wondered how I ended up where I am.

    I didn’t identify the story theme you’ve pegged here; for me it was about communicating ideas. Which is, in essence, the same thing.

    I’ve considered and pursued a few different paths in my professional life and in my hobbies – the underlying theme was always sharing ideas. Helping people see things from the other side, hoping people make the effort to get outside their comfortable narrative and challenge the way they think.

    I think the emergence of social media tools has brought the web to a really important tipping point – and I don’t think we’ve toppled one way or the other just yet. The democratization of publishing gives everyone and anyone a chance to say their piece and add to the story. But it also makes it easier to dwell in your echo chamber; to reinforce your stereotypes and revel in the false perception of balance by finding hundreds of sources to legitimize your bias instead of just a few.

    So, Susan, I think your story theme is very apt. The challenge, I think, is to make sure people challenge themselves a bit. Force themselves to find the documentary stories, not just the dramas.

    For me, it boils down to a two word mantra I’ve adopted as sort of a personal mission and gospel.

    Think critically.

  • October 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Excellent, spot-on post. Ultimately, story is the thread that gives everything meaning and context. I, too, think that social media is primarily collaborative storytelling.

    Even the little fictions that are floating out there–the inflated profile information and the photoshop-enhanced profile pics–are a form of sharing our own idealized, mythical selves. 😉

  • October 1, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I just came upon your blog from one of Chris Brogan’s posts. You are so right on about how everything we do is basically storytelling. It has always blown my mind that you really can’t even go to the gas station without having the attendant tell you their life story. Seth Godin showed us that all marketing is stories. I’m a songwriter as well, and I’ve always believed that all songs (even instrumentals) were stories. Great post!

  • October 1, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Excellent post! I too am a storyteller among various media. Stories are the core of our relationships and have been for as long as time. I think they’re definitely here to stay!

  • October 4, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Great post. I have just started using 12 seconds and it feels so much more personal than twitter but because you can share it with as many as people as you like, you can follow multiple personal videos of people across the world as their daily stories unfold – especially people who are in different timezones. I’ve only been using this a day, but its fascinating !



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