When I was young my family went on a lot of car trips. We would all load into the van and go for a drive. Sometimes these would be for a set destination, sometimes it would simply be “a drive” to places unknown; the journey was what mattered. The trips stretched the gamut from short Saturday afternoon drives, to extended cross-country trips that lasted the entire summer.
Entertainment on these trips was vital. When we tired of watching the countryside there were books and games and stories. We crafted all sorts of stories for one another, often building them together with everyone making their own contributions. So many stories, most of which have long ago vanished from memory, but one remains strong.
The Monster Birdie Friends.
They were Monsters, you see. And birds. But, they were also our friends. (Yes, I’ll admit, naming has never been my strength). The Monster Birdie friends were mortal enemies of the Monster Meanies, locked in an ongoing battle over… something. The details have faded over the years, and nothing was ever put down on paper, but those stories carried us through countless car trips. My siblings spoke of visiting the Monster Birdie Friends in their dreams. The basics of the stories remain clear in our memories. And I’m sure if I asked my little brother, he would remember even more than me.
The power of imagination is strong, and so important to foster. My love of storytelling has clearly not faded, nor has my interest in helping encourage others to explore their storytelling muscle. Imagination is a muscle that needs stretching, it needs care and nurture, and it needs encouragement and the opportunity to play. Children, I feel, naturally are storytellers. They weave these tales that ramble from point to point, sometimes taking grand leaps to reach from point A to point B.
When is the last time you sat and let a child tell you a story? To just let them meander along the journey, without re-direction or refocus? It can be a delightful thing to do, with such a wealth of ideas. Before they “know” how to structure a story, they can find the structure of a story. As adults we often constrain ourselves in our storytelling. We have been taught that there must be a beginning, middle, and end. We can explore plot structure, with the rising and falling action, inciting incident, climax and conclusion. We worry about proper sentence structure and grammatical soundness (well, some of us worry about that more than others).
When we were children we let the story flow. We allowed our imaginations to run free, even if the story never ended (I’m pretty sure that grand battle we were always helping the Monster Birdie Friends prepare for never took place) or new characters wandered into the scene (and out) as whim required. I’m not saying that they’re all great stories… simply that there is something very important inherent in allowing the imagination to run like that.
Imagination is a key part to Telling Tales. Be sure to let time for your imagination to run free.