Why We Tell Stories

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If you have not guessed by now, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to storytelling. As human beings, we have been telling each other stories as long as we have been capable of communication. We have had this intrinsic desire to share our experiences with others. No matter what part of the world you are from, what culture, what religion, we all have our stories.

And we are creating more every day. Between blogs, podcasts, games, movies, tv shows, books, poems, (and any other medium I may have missed) there are countless new stories created each day. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have stories and Twitter has moments. We cannot seem to get away from this need to share.

Why is that? What are stories so important?

Making sense of the world

All you have to do is look at mythology and legends to see how stories help us make sense of the world. Myths are stories people created to explain what was happening around them. They created the gods and goddesses to explain how the world came to be and how humanity was created, as well as all manner of natural phenomena. They did this to feel like they had some sort of control over the world, that they could appease these deities into doing what they wanted. It also gave them something to blame when the worst happened.

The stories of heroes help them understand their place in the world. Whether in relation to the deities or their society, these stories work as a sort of social blueprint. The heroes and heroines and damsels all serve to show people what is expected of them. The evil witches and wizards and temptresses show what is not acceptable.

You also have fairy tales. Short, fantastical stories used to teach children to behave. They usually feature misbehaving children who suffer the dire consequences of their actions. The original versions of these stories can be quite terrifying and, contrary to popular belief, the Grimm fairy tales were not written for children.

Even though we are older and wiser and know these stories to be untrue, they continue to captivate us. Part of this can be attributed to Disney as well as Marvel and DC Comics, of course. But even without that, we are still drawn to these older tales. They are timeless and curious and I can’t help but marvel at how much they tell us about where we came from as humans.

Making sense of our lives

When you read, write, or tell a story, you experience things through the character’s eyes. We identify with them because we see part of ourselves in them. Some people live vicariously through them because their lives are more interesting. We celebrate when they celebrate. We mourn when they mourn. Sometimes we even grow up with them.

Writing the story adds a whole new layer to this. There is a quote that says a writer lives a thousand lives, and it is really true. Reading a book, you have no idea how the story started or what all it went through. There are countless revisions, additions, sometimes a genre shift or two. Some stories may even have started with a completely different main character.

We pour so much of ourselves into the world, the plot, and the characters. It is impossible not too. We use these stories to work through whatever it is we are struggling with. It may seem like we are using writing to avoid our problems but for many of us, it is how we process things.

Journaling is another form of telling a story, although few people ever get to read our journals. The act of physically writing down what is going on in your life is very therapeutic. It is like being able to share all your secrets with someone who never judges and never tells. Here you can work out exactly what you are thinking and feeling with no fear of repercussions. While I refer to writing as thinking on paper, journaling is feeling on paper.

Making connections

As I said earlier, mankind has been telling stories since we were able to communicate. These stories can connect people in ways you may not realize.

Look at fan communities. People bonding over a shared love of a story or series of stories. Not only does this give people a chance to share their thoughts and opinions, but they do so much more.

These communities allow people to build lasting friendships with people from all around the world. They gather together to support each other in times of need. They help teach people that it is okay to be different, to like different things, to have different interests. They show people what it is like to feel accepted.

This applies to online communities as well as when people run into each other and realize they share an interest.

There is another way that sharing stories can help bond us to people. We all have stories we wish were not true of our lives. Things that we have done, things that happened to us, things we have to struggle with. These are the stories we keep to ourselves unless we really, truly trust someone.

We don’t always realize that the people around us have those stories too. By opening up and sharing your experiences and your struggles with someone, you let them know they can open up to you. We are less alone than we think. My personal experience has been that our struggles are not uncommon.

It is okay to struggle. It is okay to doubt. It is okay to share this with people. Friends can help you come to terms with what you are dealing with, help you realize you are not alone, and help you find a way to move past it.

All in all, the world would be a much darker place without stories.

How have stories changed your life?

Never Forget Your Mission

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Everyone who sets out to chase their dream struggles with this. Whether you are diving headfirst into your dream or it is something you do on the side, you will undoubtedly encounter this moment.

You hit a wall. You feel stuck. You feel lost. You question your decision to follow this dream. You find yourself wondering if any of this is worth it.

It is this crippling anxiety that you will never make it coupled with a deep sense of failure. You are afraid to let go of your dream lest you lose it. Yet you also fear that your dream is nothing but a fool’s dream.

Everyone around you tells you what kind of job you should be looking for, what you should be doing with your life. Some consider your dream to be silly, but some support you. Either way, it is easy to be bogged down by everyone’s expectations of what your life should look like.

I have experienced this myself. The anxiety. The self-doubt. I spent a fair amount of time struggling with this until I came to a realization. There is a way to fight this.

Whenever you are in this situation with your back against the wall, questioning whether it is worth it, as yourself a simple question.

Why?

Why are you doing this? Why does this matter to you?

Sometimes the easiest way to keep going is to remember why you started.

Sometimes you need to take a step back and reevaluate. Is what you are doing now getting you closer to where you want to be? Are you doing it because you want to or because someone else told you that you should?

Take some time to think through what you want to do. Create a mission statement. Figure out your strategy. Even if you never show this to anybody else, this can help you keep focused.

Remembering why you are doing something can help you keep going when times get though.

Another thing to consider. If something truly matters to you, it will matter to someone else.

Remember why you started and never give up.

You may just change the world.

The Social Media Crash Course for Creators

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So you want to build your brand.

Where do you begin?

Social media is a great place to start. It’s easy, its free, and (almost) everyone uses it. There is an art to it, though. Each platform has their own purpose and their own quirks. Once you get the hang of how they work and what content works best, it’s amazing what you can do.

Here is a crash course on the three most used platforms.

My first piece of advice, keep all the names the same or as similar as you can. Consistency is key in branding. It also makes it easier to use the same profile picture and banners across the platforms. This makes it easier for people to find you.

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

Facebook: the Gatekeeper

Facebook is the gatekeeper for social media branding. This is your starting point. You want to make sure that you do everything right while creating the page because some things cannot be undone.

The first question you will get when creating the page is if you are a business/brand or a community/public figure. The first option is for anyone who is looking to build their business’ brand. If you plan on offering any kind of product or service, this is a good option for you. If you are looking to build your personal brand, take the second option.

The next step is naming your page. Make sure it is informative and easy to remember. You will also want to make sure you can use some variation of it on any other accounts you use. For example, my Twitter and Instagram names match my website.

There are some things that you can change after the page is created, but this is no longer an option after you reach 200 followers. Keep that in mind.

Now, on to content. Facebook is good for all kinds of content. Big posts, small posts, pictures, videos. You can share blog posts and other website links. Talk about what you are interested in, share your thoughts on certain debates within your industry, show people what you are doing. Whatever content you put on other platforms, you can put it on Facebook.

Some free tips:

Get people talking. More conversation means more eyeballs on your post.

Avoid the words “like”, “comment”, and “share”. Facebook will show fewer people those posts.

Facebook live is a great way to interact in real time with your followers.

Photo by Freestocks.org on Unsplash

Twitter: the Conversationalist

Twitter has developed an interesting reputation. It has its fair share of trolls, but it also has some people who are looking to help others. The reason I stay is because of the creative community. Twitter has a plethora of writers, gamers, game developers, and all around creative people. If you notice that a lot of people in your field (or with your interest) are on Twitter, you should definitely consider joining the party.

Setting up your Twitter account is simpler than setting up a Facebook. Unlike Facebook, you can update your profile information at any point after it is created. I recommend not changing your Twitter handle, though, as it could cause confusion. You can change your username at any time and still be found. I have seen many people do this to match the season or signify they are attending a certain event.

Twitter can be used to share your thoughts as they come. I tweet a lot of quotes from other people. What I mainly use it for, though, is to talk to people.

At its core, Twitter was made for conversations.

Twitter is full of communities, and in these communities, people love to talk. Finding your people isn’t difficult. Start with the people you know in the industry. Find the thought leaders. Find the people who are active on Twitter. Join their conversations. Add in your thoughts and opinions.

Whatever you do, be polite. Remember that you are talking to a human being. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it on Twitter.

Also, use hashtags. They can help draw people to you, as well as help you find other people to follow. A quick Google search can help you find the hashtags commonly used in your industry. You can even create your own hashtag for your brand (just make sure no one else is using it)

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Instagram: the Showoff

Instagram is all about pictures. You can show off what you do and show off what you love. This can be as personal or as professional as you want it to be. I often post pictures of what I am working on or of quotes that I like.

One thing to remember is that links in Instagram posts are not clickable. This can make sharing blog posts difficult and sharing links from multiple sources, impossible. You can attach a link in your profile and refer to that link, though.

There is one way to get around this. It is something Instagram is perfect for.

Microblogs.

This is especially good for writers. It helps you learn how to convey information in three short paragraphs. This can be in relation to your blog post or you telling the story behind the picture. The possibilities are endless.

Hashtags are popular on Instagram too. There is a limit to 30 per post, but they serve a similar purpose as on Twitter.

Now that you know the basics, it is time to get started.

There are plenty of other things you can do to build your brand, like blogging (more on that later), YouTube (keep an eye out for more), and LinkedIn (I’ll get to this eventually).

If you have any questions or want me to go into more depth on any of these topics, let me know.

Until next time!

The Power of Building Your Brand

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Here is a lovely little infographic about social media that was created within the last year.

You may be thinking “why does this matter to me?”

It matters to you because if you want to tell your story, social media is the perfect place to do it.

The power to tell your story

You may be thinking “why does this matter to me?”

It matters to you because if you want to tell your story, social media is the perfect place to do it.

When people talk about ‘branding’, this is what they mean. Each brand is its own story. Each brand has its own message that it wants to share with the world.

And these brands are choosing to use social media.

Now, I know that social media can be intimidating, especially with all of the negativity and stigma. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a positive influence on social media.

Think of social media as a tool. At is core, that is all that they are. Platforms.

Platforms that you can use to your advantage.

The power to be yourself

People crave authenticity.

Think about it. People flock towards those they identify with. They celebrate the celebrities who are open and honest.

There is power in being authentically yourself.

Share your journey. Share your passions. Share your knowledge.

You can start building your audience today. Talk to people. Tell them who you are. Start documenting your journey and people will pay attention.

They will celebrate your highs and rally around you in your lows.

All you have to do is be unapologetically yourself.

The power to reach people

As I mentioned before, there are a lot of people in this world who use social media.

Many of those people would greatly benefit from hearing your story.

They are also people you will never run into during your daily routine.

The wonderful thing about social media, and the internet in general, is that it connects people.

If you decide to build your brand through social media, there is no telling how many people you will reach. I have started to build relationships with people in Canada, Australia, and I even have a follower from Israel (shoutout to the wonderful Galit Balli)

There is no telling just how far your story can travel.

The power to connect

This is another amazing bonus of building your brand. It forces you to connect with people.

When you start broadcasting your interests and sharing your knowledge, you will attract people with similar interests. Case in point, my friend Galit. We both have similar interests.

I have another friend I met through a writer’s group on Facebook. She has been a good friend and writing buddy since 2013. Never met her in person (she lives in Colorado and I live in Texas).

One great thing about connecting with people, is it makes you realize you aren’t the only one.

No matter how obscure your interests are, I assure you there are others out there who are interested in the same thing. They will gather to you. You can create a much needed community.

At the very least you will meet some interesting people. You may even make a friend.

The power to inspire

This is probably my favorite point of them all. It feels me with the warm fuzzies.

You see, there is this thing that happens when you begin to grow a following doing something you love.

You inspire people.

Whether it is what you are talking about or simply what you are doing with your life, you will inspire people. You inspire them to try new things. You inspire them to work to achieve their dreams.

When you are living your life to the fullest. When you are chasing your dreams. When you are connecting with others. When you are living a life that 100% true to yourself. You are showing others that they can do it too.

When you take that first step towards changing your life, you never know who will follow you.

So what is standing in your way?

The Audacity of Tenacity

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This is for the dreamers. For the people who have always had a goal that no one thought they can reach.

Some want to write a book. Some want to run a 5k. Maybe you want to start your own business.

These are all things I myself have wanted to do at one point or another, among countless other things.

The hardest thing can be finding the motivation.

We often find ourselves surrounded by people who tell us we can’t do it. They tell us that our dreams are silly. Why don’t we focus on other things?

Why don’t we find a real job instead of chasing some silly dream?

Here is what I say to that.

They don’t know your passions like you do. They don’t know your skills like you do.

When they look at your dream, they see it from their perspective and to them, it is impossible.

This is where the good news comes in.

It is very possible.

It will take a lot of hard work. It will probably require you spend a fair amount of time researching and learning new things.

You will have to try new things, learn new tools. You will have to network with people. You will have to step outside of your comfort zone a bit.

It is possible, though.

Your journey will not look like other people’s. It will take a while before those around you starts to appreciate what you are trying to do.

Don’t give up.

Keep chasing that dream.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to prove yourself to the world. That just leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

Start small. Create a plan. Follow the plan. Prove to yourself that you can do it.

If it doesn’t work out, so what? Failure is not the end. Trust me, I have failed before. It hurts. It may feel like everything is over, but its not. Failure is just a chance to try again.

Get up, dust yourself off, and try something new. There is always more out there for you to try.

Chase your dreams. Live your life to the fullest. Don’t let anyone stand in your way, least of all yourself.

Keep on working until your dream becomes a reality.

Be audacious. Be tenacious.

When you are done, the world won’t know what hit them.