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Storytelling and the Zone

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In my first blog post I began to explore the relationship between storytelling and creativity. I feel the two are not just intrinsically linked but that we all need creativity in our lives in order to thrive. It’s early days in my exploration of these issues so I have decided to leap in, much as I do when telling a story for the first time. I do not always know where it’s going to take me but I’m pretty sure that it’s a journey I want to take.


One of the most powerful tools that I find in my storyteller’s bag of tricks is an ability to enter a “zone” that has become increasingly familiar. I am aware that athletes and sports people talk of a similar zone so I have chosen the word quite deliberately. At the moment it’s not a word I have a proper definition for and I will be coming back to that once I’ve had a chance to review some relevant literature from other fields (any references would be gratefully received in the comments box below). My reason for choosing this word is down to its association with an ability to lose oneself for a time and completely focus. It seems to me that the creative benefits of this are enormous. Jack Zipes (1995)  talks of putting the dreams of our lives into effect. That is the closest I have come so far to a definition.


I believe this state of being in a “zone” applies as much to act of listening to a story as it does to the retelling or performing of a traditional tale. It is a kind of dream-like state where one is totally conscious and present but where impossible things happen. Being able to imagine the impossible is vital for us as humans. The technological developments that have occurred in my own lifetime were almost unimaginable when I was a child. None of these would have been possible if it hadn’t been for creative thinkers trying to work out “what if…?” I would not be able to access any of the new technologies at my fingertips if I didn’t constantly think “I wish I could …”.


For now I think I’ll stick to how this is relevant in education because it’s closest to my own experience. We have evolved in a relatively short time span from creatures whose only means of processing information was from our own individual experience. It is particularly true of children that we process information best when it comes in the a form that resembles individual experiences and that is very often in the form of stories (Parkinson,2011: after Tooby and Cosmides, 2001).


Stories are not just a bunch of cleverly dressed up lies. They provide us with a means of getting closer to truths, of helping us to understand (Parkinson, 2011). A great deal of this is unconscious and that is what interests me at the moment. Learning to work with some of these unconscious processes should be possible and could prove to be as empowering to us all as to any athlete who can focus on completing that marathon.



Storytelling and the Imagination, Rob Parkinson 2011. Routledge, Oxon.

Creative Storytelling, Jack Zipes 1995. Routledge, NY.

Storytelling and Creativity

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So often, when people find out what I do for the first time, they say:

“But I could never do that!”

And they really believe this! It’s rarely a child who will tell me that they can’t tell a story, most often it’s an adult. One who goes to meetings, deals with the bill that got left at the bottom of the pile, explains why a deadline will be missed, makes us laugh when we see them. Very intelligent, creative adults choose not to recognise how important their own creativity could be every day in their own and others’  lives.

Why do we devalue the kind of everyday creativity that can enrich our lives?

Listening to Sir Ken Robinson speak on how we are stifling creativity in our children is both funny and inspiring.

Ken Robinson creativity in education

Where does storytelling fit in with all this? Apart from it being very clear that Sir Ken Robinson is a very gifted and funny storyteller himself, of course!

“When people say to me that they are not creative, I assume they just haven’t yet learnt what is involved,” (Robinson, 2011). It’s even simpler with stories. When they say they can’t tell a story it’s because they don’t realise that they do it all the time. Just being human makes everyone of us a natural storyteller.

At its most basic level storytelling is a functional skill which supports our personal development, (Grove, 2009). We need to construct a narrative every time we face a problem. Our ability to remember the consequences of the actions we took to resolve the problem and to convey these to others is fundamental to human communication. It is these simple steps that also lead us into rich imaginative worlds, full of possibilities.



Now, it’s time to be honest. I am a new blogger and I haven’t worked out where this is taking me. Every day, I come across ideas that just cry out to be explored – that’s just what happens when you work with traditional oral storytelling. So instead of my rather static website I thought I would explore the possibilities of blogging. Having mastered some of the magic of Word Press this blog is now live so, welcome and please leave your comments below.



Learning to tell, a handbook for inclusive storytelling, Nicola Grove 2009. BILD publications

Out of Our Minds, Ken Robinson 2011. Capstone Publishing Ltd.