A storyteller’s daily routine I

By Limor Shiponi

I started my voyage in the arts from classical music. Meaning – I’ve been sentenced to practice for life. Practice was always there – practice my instrument (oboe), practice the piano (ambivalent relationship here), new manuscripts, solfeggio, harmony, counterpoint, singing, orchestration, composition, chamber music, playing in an orchestra, conducting an orchestra, practice-practice-practice. No matter how much more there is to add to this list, it will always go hand in hand with – practice. During ten of those years I was also a ballerina (you’ll have to stretch your imagination a little…) and it was the same thing – practice.

Then I arrived to storytelling. We were asked to prepare, but practice?! Eventually I found practice and realized it’s a very subjective issue among storytellers, highly dependent on what we wish for ourselves – artistically. How come many manage without stable practice? How come most storytellers don’t have a daily routine like other performers?

Observing the daily lives of musicians and dancers, I came up with two main differentiators that effect everything else:

#1 When you start learning music, the little pieces you play are handpicked by your teacher, keeping her eyes on the methodological and artistic arcs of becoming a musician while closely observing you. When you manage to handle those pieces, the teacher pushes up the bar and does so continuously. If you want to enjoy your music, you’ll have to practice. Same with ballet. Knowing they don’t want to “break” the students, ballet teachers will allow some time for free-style during each lesson, but that you’ll enjoy anyway.

#2 Musicians, dancers and many actors – learn, perform and grow within an artistic ecosystem. There are academies and institutions, theaters and orchestras, ballet troupes and groups, there are halls and stable audiences, composers, choreographers, writers, directors, trainers and many others, all rotating within the system. If you want to be part of the artistic ecosystem, you’ll have to practice and keep to a daily routine.

What about storytellers?

Once upon a time, there were artistic storytelling ecosystems you could be part of; very little of that still exists today, so most of the time we have to do it solo. After some contemplation I see a storyteller’s routine situated somewhere between performance arts routines and those followed by authors and painters. More about it in another post.

In the meanwhile, I found something that might not be suitable to all storytellers, maybe to some… at least in the frameworks of “applied storytelling”…

12 thoughts on “A storyteller’s daily routine I”

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  3. My daily practise is in being mindfull: mindfull of the landscape around me; mindful of my own and others feelings; mindful of sounds. All of which forms a rich, desciptive image bank.
    The children and I make up stories or use our imaginations in other ways on a daily basis; practising the vital visualisation skills of a storyteller. And I practise by listening to others stories, around the kitchen table; on the school yard; in the queue at the post office – and, of course, in storytelling clubs.
    Practising is delightful!

  4. My daily stortelling practise is being mindfull. Mindfulness turns up the contrast, volume and brightness control on the world. I am mindfull of the landscape- its shapes and ever changing colours; mindfull of mine and others feelings and mindfull of the many sounds around me. Mindfulness helps form a rich, descriptive image bank.
    My children and I make up stories, or use our imaginations in otherways, on a daily basis -practising and honing the visualisation skills vital to a storyteller.
    And I listen to others stories, around the kitchen table, on the school yard, in the queue at the post office and, of course, at story telling clubs.
    Not forgetting reading books and blogs (like yours, Limor!).
    Practising is delightful.

    1. Hi Susanna,
      Practicing mindfulness is definitely a great way to enrich a storyteller’s image bank. I like that combination – image bank – it resonates with practice and several other bank we might like to have. Practicing everywhere is like filling up the bank with small deposits which eventually make for a fine capital. Maybe that’s why storytellers often feel rich even if they are penny less 🙂

  5. I think you’re pointing to a serious problem in “professional” storytelling today — we don’t take our skill-development as seriously as most artists in other arts. If we had storytelling conservatories, would the art form reach a higher (and/or more highly regarded) level? I think so —

    1. Hi Jo,
      I think so too. There is always a fear that once you establish a methodology the individual might suffer and that once you create an institution, freedom is lost. Didn’t hurt other art forms to proceed, did it?

      1. Yes, that’s right. It hasn’t hurt music or theater or poetry to be taught more formally; imagination builds on good technique. But storytellers have some fear, I think, of the idea of academic instruction. We’re still in the “everyone is a storyteller” mode. Everyone sings in the shower, too….

        1. It might be the fear is also an outcome of getting into a field with great enthusiasm, to eventually find out you’ve invested a lot in an unmapped territory. Will you back off? most won’t. Will you proceed into the territory? most won’t walk into the unknown. So you’ll find yourself a nice little place close to the entrance and build your nice little house.

          I think the storytelling community has a responsibility here and it’s about time those who have walked further into that territory – and it’s not so difficult to say who they might be – come back and share the wisdom. If they are asking “but what’s in it for me?” the answer is – not having a greater system which can enhances your achievements beyond certain circles, is short sited.

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