Show Your Work! – part 5

Tell good stories

Work doesn’t speak for itself

Humans are great storytellers and people want to know what something is, where it came from, why it was made and by whom.
That information is key to how people react to your work and how much they value it; people’s assessment of a thing is affected by what they know about it.

Structure is everything

Well-structured stories are “tidy, sturdy, and logical”. Real life needs a lot of editing to even vaguely resemble a well-structured story!

John Gardner has a story formula: “A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose or draw” (pp99)

Every piece of work you produce has its own story – get the idea, do the work, succeed (or don’t). Pitches follow a similar structure – where have you been, what do you want and why, what did you do to get it; where are you now?; where are you going, and how can your audience help you get there? Speak directly, respect your audience, be brief, proof-read. Like any skill, story-telling gets better the more you do it.

Talk about yourself at parties

You should be able to explain your work to a five-year-old. Keep your audience in mind, but keep it simple, humble, true and brief. Two or three sentences should do it, and they should be as free of adjectives as possible (“aspiring”, “amazing”, even “critically-acclaimed” can go).

Recommended reading:

  • Significant objects, Glenn and Walker