Storytelling

Once upon a time when Grandma & Grandpa lived on the farm…….

Once upon a time when Grandma & Grandpa lived on the farm…….

What stories do we like to hear? What stories do we like to tell? My first job out of university was as a journalist in a daily newspaper. We were trained to write stories about other people, always writing in the third person, leaving out our own bias and personality. Then working as a librarian telling stories to children. These stories were all about archetypes; kings, queens and magical animals, heroes and fools, ghost stories and moral stories, but never personal stories.

It was not until I started writing my own blog that I realised I liked telling my own stories, musing about life, the personal, social and political. I am never short of ideas and have so many stories within me I could write a book (but I don’t think I have the time or perseverance at the moment). Blog posts are a type of story more in the ‘essay’ tradition rather than a full short story or book. For me there are also a bit like my daily collages, little focused snippets capturing moments in my life.

What stories do we tell about ourselves that define who we are or how we want others to perceive us.?When I tell my granddaughter stories about life on the farm in the Victorian high country where we lived 15 years ago, I always preface it with that opening line “once upon a time, when grandma and grandpa lived on the farm…” Then there is the middle part of the story with the action, like the time the fox attacked our chickens and then the resolution of the story, how the rooster survived and a missing hen appeared days later with seven baby chicks to restart the flock. Giving a story structure is immensely comforting - we know there will be a beginning, middle and end.

This week I’ve been updating my web page and have told the story of my journey to become an artist. It is a story I tell others to inspire them to create, to never be defined what other people say of your talents, to strive against the odds, to satisfy your creative yearnings. People learn from stories. it was the way of imparting vital survival knowledge in oral cultures and remains our favourite pastime around the fire. Films and television have replaced that oral storytelling, yet the story structures remain the same….and hopefully good wins out in the end.

Stories  , (detail) 2014 from the exhibition  I Was Here , Lismore regional Gallery 2015,

Stories, (detail) 2014 from the exhibition I Was Here, Lismore regional Gallery 2015,

Heather Matthew