If you want to be anything these days (including a writer), you also have to learn about marketing. Whether you are a small business or big business owner or run a non-profit or work in the service industry you know this. If you are a writer, too, and have an agent they may have made Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand required reading. I am shifting through the pages of this book now, admiring the author’s simple, clean messaging. Everything so crisp and to the point like hotel bedding.
The Art Of Storytelling
While most things require marketing these days, not all of us (myself included) are marketers. Selling things—including ideas—does not come naturally to me. Writing or thinking in clear, sound-bite, marketer-approved lingo, the kinds of sentences found on blocky, modern websites—this has never been my thing.
What does come naturally is storytelling. As long as I can remember I’ve been in love with stories, especially those that wait somewhere on pages that smell like my old elementary school’s library. Nancy Drew, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Babysitters Club, Encyclopedia Britannica (not the online version), even a worn children’s dictionary—most of the childhood that I remember was lived between the pages of these friends. So, it was not surprising when I started telling stories of my own.
I’m Not The Hero Of My Story
After I entered recovery from addiction and other mental health challenges, there was a shift in the way that I started telling stories. Telling stories—telling my story—stopped being about me.
Now, in this great book by Miller, he talks about how establishing the character of a story is extremely important. This seems like a no-brainer. Every good story needs a protagonist. Someone to get into a mess, get out and win the day. But interestingly, Miller notes, stories don’t have room for more than one hero.
In recovery, I’ve spent some time thinking about what this means for my own life. When I share my recovery story, what is it really about? Why do I do it? How has it helped me stay clean and sober?
And I’ve come to this interesting conclusion: I’m not the hero of my story.
Now this might sound counterintuitive or maybe confusing. Like—of course, I am a hero because my Lord, I’ve endured so much and persevered! I regularly hear things about my recovery (that make me inwardly cringe) like “You are amazing! Such an inspiration!” But, this is not the case. While I have gone through some things and God has brought me through them, the hero of my story isn’t me at all.
You see, recovery and resilience is all about you. It’s about us. It’s about finding a place that we can stand together and say, “yes, this is hard and yes, life is tough, but it’s going to get better.” It’s about showing, not just telling. Recovery isn’t something that can be sold, it’s a gift that’s shared.
When I reflect on how I tell my story—and why—I am reminded that it’s not about me at all. Sharing is about entering into a community through vulnerability and shared experience. And when I reflect today on who the hero of my story is, I am reminded that it is you and all of the people like you who have helped walk alongside me and point to the star (hope) way off in the distance that is the better, truer way to live. And most importantly, I am reminded that it is God, himself, who holds all of it: our stories and heroes and trials and successes in His open, gracious hands.