When I first began this class, I was nervous. The idea of telling stories for an audience was exciting to me and also, a little nerve-wracking. When I thought of storytellers, I thought of TED Talks. People like Amanda Palmer with her talk, The Art of Asking came to mind. Inside, I wavered, ‘How could I ever be as good of a storyteller as her?’
Interestingly enough, the art of learning how to tell stories is similar to reading a story. Step- by- step, the storytelling process builds upon itself. That is due to the help of a great support system, a great concept, and a great leader. I initially wanted to write a story about an arts institution where I was rediscovering my creativity. I went back and forth with the idea because I did not not know if I wanted to focus on the arts institution in a historical and educational context, or to tell a more personal story.
Through the use of story circles where my classmates and I practiced, shared ideas, and critiqued stories with each other, I learned that I wanted to write a more personal story. Still the story was very stubborn to come out. It felt like a flower trying to break through the concrete of my fear. I got closer and closer through the process of conversation. Speaking to my professor, Dr. Marilyn Arnone, really gave me the push to understand where I was trying to go, especially when I was asked to attempt to tell my story in real time.
While I was discovering what I wanted my final project to be about, I rediscovered skills which I had had some experience with prior like working with Audacity, or film-editing. The struggle came in choosing and editing stories to present to others. The moment of choosing what the story would be about was always filled with anxiety because in my mind, the immediate stories I thought about were of struggles I had had. I did choose to tell an African folktale called “The Tortoise and the Hunter” from the book, Tales of an Ashanti Father by Peggy Appiah, and found a way to “lighter” stories like the story about my journal collection, and the first time I learned why protecting my stories was important.
I enjoyed the recording process and editing in Audacity immensely. There was something unique each time I discovered a new sound, a new way to edit my voice to make the transitions smoother. It was challenging and stimulating. Still, I had so much tension around choosing my stories. Choosing a story from my personal collection of stories always felt like exposing myself. I felt like I would be lying if I was not honest in what I chose to pursue.
As time went on, I realized I wanted to tell the story of when I started to experience panic attacks in my undergraduate days. I focused on Lake Michigan to ground my story because it had such a huge presence. It literally began to work its way through my subconscious and revealed itself as the symbol of this story. Many would not know this, but the struggles that I still face and am still learning to manage, first showed themselves when I went to Northwestern University. The story that I ended up writing is almost like a mirror of where I am now. There are so many similarities to that time and yet, the growth away from that time is evident. What was even more ironic is that I visited Chicago and Evanston where Northwestern University is located, during the time that I was working on this story, so this digital story was truly, and will always be, a marker of how far I’ve really come, and will always remind me of a very powerful experience in helping me to achieve a new perspective. It was really interesting to watch and experience this story unfolding before me, which is why I just had to go with the process and not force it to fit into a simple constraint.
Digital stories can be anything you want them to be – personal, academic, emotional, irreverent, funding-based and historical. It’s important to experiment and to not be afraid of wherever the process will take you. Funnily enough, they seem to have a way of starting off one way, and totally ending in a different way, so growing as your digital story grows is quite important. In creating digital stories, I’ve learned to trust the process.