Storytelling and the Zone

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.

Comments ( 3 )

  1. ReplyJim Phillips

    I am also exploring the connections between storytelling and creativity - and storytelling and performance as relationship and community building activities. You can feel and see the zone when it happens. The best storytellers either know how to reach the zone and are aware of the process of getting there, or it just comes naturally to them. I hope to create a program that will help community leaders and organizers find the zone and use the storytellers zone as a tool to build brides across the many divides: race, gender, skin color, politics, age, socio-economics, religion, etc. I look forward to seeing where your new blogs takes you.

    • Replyadmin

      Thank you Jim. I'd love to know more about your work so I will be checking out your website. Your positive input is really heartening.

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