The Irish have a cruel saying about the youngest in a family: scrioba leis an grinneal.
(Nope, no idea how to pronounce that. Make some gibberish noises and you’ll be grand, pet.)
Roughly translated, the last born of a large family is described as “the scrapings of the pot.”
The baby of the family emerges into the world a weak and pale creature, as if the parents were too exhausted for the creation of a strong and vibrant child.
Oh yes, Irish wit isn’t all turds and giggles.
Stories told on page and stage can be a lot like the scrapings of the pot, especially when we’re terrified of rejection and people not “getting it.”
Wolves, Women and Writing
Years ago I was asked to speak at a Women’s Day event. You would think I would talk about… oh, I don’t know. Women?
Instead I chose to speak about wolves.
Why tell a story about the family of wolves that lived on our property when I was growing up?
And why mention the yellow two-seater outhouse our father built for us, which the wolves loved to visit, but none of my siblings did?
My story was described by one audience member as about “nothing” yet she could recite portions of my address word-for-word-for-word… months later.
There’s power in stories about “nothing” – they’re the opposite of scrapings and scraps from the pot called Safe, Secure and Comfortable.
Sure, I could have talked about being a woman at work out there in the big bad world.
But I’m no Little Red Riding Hood. And neither are you, Story Sister.
(And our Beacon Brothers? They’re not the big bad wolf.)
Whenever you’re contemplating which story you “should” tell, stop. You’re out of integrity.
How Not to Be Boring
Choosing a safe, secure and comfortable story costs you.
You’re going to sound boring, you’re going to feel boring and your audience is going to look bored.
I know what that feels like. And yes, like a little piggy, you run wee, wee, wee all the way home.
Bombing on stage blows. So does writing bad prose.
When choosing a story, dig deep and dive in.
Avoid the shallow end of the pool – it’s packed with kids and smells like pee.
What story is inside you? In the marrow of your bones?
You want a story that excites you, thrills you, scares you and makes you feel YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
A story that doesn’t fit your topic, your structure or even your audience.
Opening with a story about a pack of wolves, two little brothers, a starry night, a pee incident and an outhouse doesn’t really sound like a women’s business dinner topic, does it?
And that, grasshopper, is the point.
As long as you’re in command of your story – you’ve assigned meaning to your narrative that’s relevant to you, me and 7 billion others – you’re good.
You can make your story fit your structure and topic.
A story you love and polish will always show you the bridge to the other side of your content.
But as in life, you must be a believer.
Do You Believe YOU?
For others to believe in your story/vision/message/pitch/invitation, you really DO have to be the alpha-wolf and leader of the pack.
Absolutely I was told my story would never work. But the people giving that kind of advice aren’t my kind of writers and speakers.
(Seriously, how often do we take advice from people we never want to be? It’s a tough habit to break. Naysayers are rocks not lighthouses.)
Wolves are meat eaters. They hunt for juicy meals not skinny scraps.
When you’re looking to create and lead with a story baring teeth and wagging tail, don’t follow the pack in the name of safe, secure and comfortable.
Go wild. Act like an Irish first born – strong, bold and hungry.
Have the courage to howl and heal. By telling a story close to your heart, you invite the rest of the pack to follow you into the wilderness.
Toward a yellow outhouse. With a bunch of delicious-looking Irish children running around like a pee-soaked pack of….
Story on and howl at the moon, lighthouse wolf!