Fireflies are cool, right? They light up the night.

Like your story.

While cockroaches scurry around in dirt and despair (i.e., wound stories), firefly stories soar and shine light.

One of the quickest ways to figure out if your storytelling is coming from a flash of strength or a cave of sorrow is to gauge whether you’re – wait for it – lit up or dimmed down in the telling.

Stay with me.

In heart-based, authentic, Brené Brown-approved storytelling, message and meaning are different.

Think of a story’s message as a kind of moral “you better do, you better know” directed at your audience.

Examples of finger-wagging messages? “Racism is bad,” “methadone is good,” “we care about you.”

I’ve worked with writers and speakers who’ve shared stories that would keep you up at night IF their story only had a message – he done me wrong! She done me wrong! They done me wrong!

(A lot of women are encouraged to share in this way, which I don’t consider a source of empowerment. Communicate from the lens of hard-earned, rock-hard wisdom. Avoid communicating from a gaping, weeping wound, Story Sister Warrior Woman.)

So how do you tell a story infused with light?

Here are three questions to consider when deciding if your story is a firefly or a cockroach.

Am I still living this story?

Margaret Atwood writes about how when you’re in the middle of a story, still living through what is happening, the (life) story is all dark roar, staggering blindness and splintering glass. So, for example, if you’re getting divorced this second, may I suggest you NOT get on stage and share. Sure, you can write some pages in your journal about the oh-so-charming-and-cheap experience but overall? The Big Picture (meaning) hasn’t revealed itself yet. The wound is still being made. Yes, you likely have your message: don’t marry a person like this! And be sure to never marry THIS (flash photo) &^*$%^# person! For meaning to be shared, we must have some form of healing, time and perspective.

Am I in command of this story?

Control is like a closed fist. When a writer or speaker is attempting to control their story, two things happen. Either audience fists go up because they don’t feel safe. Or audience butts or eyeballs leave because they don’t feel respected. Command over a story – and a room – is rooted in confidence, courage and compassion. Your story is both an invitation and a gift to your audience. You have been changed, likely painfully, and you are better for it. Show us what happened, who you were before, who you are now. And how your story is our story too. Light ‘em up! Your fellow fireflies will flash to your beat in love and appreciation. The roaches? Sweetheart, they’ll run for the hills. Good.

Am I coming from love or fear?

If your story is angry, you’re in fear. If your story is sad and you feel sad in the telling, you’re in fear. (Vulnerability lovers, keep breathing.) Sharing a story from a place of love is like a gospel of goodness; the story in the telling and the story in the receiving feel good because the story IS good. Not in an A+ kind of way based on writing technique, word count or pitch-perfect telling. A “good” story is a match lit inside a cave. You may show your audience the shadows and those cockroaches scurrying around on the ground! But by the end of your story, readers and listeners are guided out of cold darkness into warm sunshine. You show them the Light, and they like it.

From one firefly to another, I flash my light butt in your direction.

♥ Shannon