On Storytelling

On Storytelling

I have a voice. I’ve always known that I have a voice. As a child and teenager, I wrote imaginative stories, which I illustrated, and some overly dramatic poetry. Then I stopped.

I continued to write (and read) academically, of course, I had A-level examinations to get through, and a bachelor thesis to write, then a MA thesis. But I stopped writing out loud, writing for fun; I only wrote in my head for a while. I formulated sentences in my mind, stringing together poetic phrases before falling asleep or while queuing in the supermarket, which I forgot as quickly as I had made them up.

I tried blogging before, but only managed to describe the inspiring, the beautiful. I had no real words to deal with the hurt of the world yet, even though I had already gotten a small taste of it. Words need time to mature in our hearts. I don’t feel the words are quite ready yet, I don’t feel ready yet, but somewhere inside there is this itch to tell stories. So this will be my second attempt at public storytelling, stories that are true and imaginative (because the two are never mutually exclusive), stories that deal with the agony and the joy of being alive, sometimes both at the same time.

Some ideas come to me in German, others in English; different circumstances call for different languages. Words taste differently in different languages. I think in both languages despite the fact that German is my first language, probably because I switch between languages so often, and I intent to be multilingual in my storytelling, unapologetically. I will tell stories in pictures and words, because storytelling is what I have been doing in my work for years already. My design work is the flotsam of these stories, the foam you scoop off a boiling casserole of plum jam. As a viewer, you might not know the whole story from looking at a finished piece, but you will certainly get the sneaking suspicion that there must be more to it, beyond your reach (that is how I feel about particularly beautiful people I see on the subway, not the fashion magazine kind of beauty, but the true and passionate lived kind of beauty).

This time, in my storytelling, I will gradually become more personal. I know many people who are hesitant to share too much of their private thoughts in public, and that is something to be respected. But I have stuff to say. It’s not that the fear of public judgement and scrutiny and stalkers and mostly what I could uncover in myself in the process of writing is not present. But there are things to tell, conversations to be had that are too important to be concerned with something as trivial as fear. For me, fear should never be a reason not to do something, but rather a catapult to find a more compelling reason to do just that which I fear. Words are brewing: I’m inspired, I’m upset, I’m angry, I’m full of gratitude and joy and doubts.

There are two sides of the storyteller – the talker and the listener. The storyteller needs to gather her stories, observe, listen carefully, hoard the fragments like precious pearls before unpacking and curating them again in whichever way she chooses.

I am inspired by daily observations, by people I meet, by questions I stumble upon, cultural clashes, gestures, words that are dropped onto the pavement that might get lost if no-one found them and rescued them. Small and large occurrences in humanstory (for obvious reasons I dislike the word ‘history’ – it’s her story too, and I am a woman, after all, so I will use the word ‘humanstory’). And I attempt to use these fragments to make sense of my world in a burst of colour and emotion.

I detest how parts of Western culture teach us to stay in control, to be rational, to never show what moves us. I am through and through irrational, I am an emotional being, which does not keep me from functioning perfectly well in society, running my own business, cleaning my kitchen sink, and filing my tax returns.

The purpose of my art is never to idealize everything, but to show that life is worth living not despite but rather because its ups and downs, its messiness and chaos, its melancholy moments and also those plain, non-dramatic moments where we’re just okay, just doing our thing. (However, I do acknowledge that nostalgia and romanticism are very serious vices of mine.) Life is beautiful and deserves appreciation, every form of it. Life is a celebration.