Storycatcher: a storytelling for change and connection
To those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know me as “Storycatcher”. I borrowed that term from storyteller and author Christina Baldwin. In her book, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story (2005), Baldwin defines a “storycatcher” as someone who actively listens to the stories of others and oneself. Their role in contemporary society is “to remind us who we are” and “invite the stories we most need to come forward into the community” (p. xiv).
This role unfolds in importance on every page through personal tales and anecdotes as well as through practical exercises and prompts in every chapter. Baldwin emphasizes that storytelling is not just a form of communication and entertainment but a critical tool for transformation and healing. The power of storytelling is available to everyone, not just the powerful or those who control the media. Throughout this book, Baldwin relates stories of ordinary people — storycatchers — accomplishing extraordinary personal and community change through the power of storytelling.
One of those storycatchers is Marianne Knuth who returns to her home in Zimbabwe and through the power of her self-story and those of others, confronts the scourge of racism and brings positive change to the community. Like all her chapters, Baldwin complements these personal stories with prompts to help the reader integrate the lessons shared into their own stories.
This is a book about honouring the stories of others as well as of oneself. Through this honouring of story comes healing and transformation that gives us a sense of who we are, provides meaning and purpose to our experiences, and connects us to one another in community. Baldwin nourishes this process through ideas like “story circles”, intimate gatherings of people who can share their stories in a safe environment where they can grow into a sense of belonging.
“Change your story, change your life” is a popular aphorism heard these days. Baldwin offers convincing evidence and practical advice to make this a reality. By re-examining and re-shaping the stories we tell ourselves and others, we can transform our self-perception and the way we see the world.
In summary, the act of “storycatching” is available to anyone willing to listen and share from the heart. Storycatching is a method for transforming and re-building community as well as personal identity. Meaning and purpose are contained within our personal narratives if we are willing to examine them. As Baldwin concludes, “That’s the point of this whole book: for us to notice how the story we make of the moment becomes the life we lead” (p. 234).
This book changed me and contributed to my story coaching work with others. It has helped provide me with a renewed sense of my identity and purpose in life. I’m confident that it can change you too.
Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story (New World Library, 2005). Available on Amazon and other booksellers.
Michael Williams, Ph.D. is an award-winning author, storyteller, story coach, and end-of-life planning facilitator & trainer. Learn more about his work at www.michaelwilliamsstoryteller.com and www.beforeigosolutions.com/michael-williams-3/ Michael also offers storytelling workshops and 1:1 story coaching. To contact Michael, email email@example.com. He currently lives in Hamilton, Canada.