“An American audience needs to hear that story!” That comment by Loren Niemi changed my life, pushing me to create a personal story I had not had the courage or vision to imagine. With his coaching and infinite patience, it developed into a 75 minute show, A Land Twice Promised, that I have been performing for almost ten years.
Working with a coach is central to my process, development, and growth as a storyteller, especially when working on personal stories.
A coach inspires. A story begins with snippets of memory, images, maybe a feeling. My beginnings are often chaotic. I wonder, “Is there a story here? What could this offer to listeners?” The listening wisdom of a nurturing and encouraging coach is crucial at this stage to guide, inspire, and give me courage to begin.
A coach helps stay the course. One challenge of working with content that is emotionally or politically risky is perseverance. To take those risks, I need someone to remind me of the vision, and help me keep things in perspective. A coach keeps me accountable to my commitment.
A coach helps delve deeper. Unresolved emotional issues can block a story from transcending into the universal, which is the goal of art. I was once stuck in a litany of self-pity trying to create a story about my mother. Only after being coached through the anger and pain was I able to craft and tell the story.
A coach helps shape. When working on a story for a while, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Probing, even difficult, questions force me to re-think what is important. Here I also need direction from someone willing to say, “You don’t need this. Take it out.”
I have learned that one coach is not enough! Each has different strengths and approaches that may work better for one stage of my process but not another. Varied listeners pull out different facets of the inner kaleidoscope that becomes a story. Ultimately the storyteller makes the final decisions, but coaches can illuminate the path.
NSN has fantastic coaches. Learn from them all and grow your stories!