One day, I read at Norwegian broadcasting that the child welfare service in Soloer (a place in Norway) had hired a «love consultant», and I thought what a wonderful professional title. Another day, I saw that an organization (Kirkens bymisjon) was looking for a “business architect”, a professional title I had not known until then. A while back I discovered someone who had taken the name «mood creator» as a title of their profession. I have a fondness for these whimsical professional titles, perhaps because I myself work on what you might call a marginal profession, a profession that must always be explained twice when presenting, or that the person I tell it to, becomes completely silent with a little «afterwards hark» because they do not know how to respond to me enthusiastically conveying that I am a storyteller (it may have something to do with the enthusiasm), and not an actor, comedian or priest for that matter.
Everyone knows what telling a story is. Everybody tells, every day, because that’s how we write ourselves into the world. But that there are people like me who have a profession that involves telling stories, artistically in a public space, few people know about. This is a post about and to choose a career path where you have to create the path to yourself.
The second thought that often hits the recipient, is that they think I am doing something antiquarian, that I am a bard from the past. But the fact is that being a storyteller is a modern profession that originated in the 1970s where there were some “folk movements” against how art / society evolved. It is not an old profession, although it is known that the collectors of folk tales, such as Asbjoernsen and Moe (in Norway), collected folk tales from folk artists, but they did not call themselves storytellers and if a few did, they considered it as something else than our contemporary storyteller.
Just to give a very brief introduction to what a storyteller is: As mentioned above, all people tell, yet some of us choose to call us storytellers. This means that we have some competences and skills that differentiate us from the everyday form of communicating. We know how and often why storytelling works in that and that situation. We know how to make the listener experience a story that leads to reflection, change, or simply a good laugh.
What is it like to establish yourself with something nobody knows about? What mechanisms do you have to overcome in order to live by something that will give you a roof over your head and something to chew as it is told in the folk tales, and that should give you opportunities? How can one live of something one believes is of value to society, while many shake their heads as they ask what do you really «want to be”? You cannot live by dreams, it is said, I was also told this. Yes, you can, but then you must know that you have to deal with huge amount of resistance, and you must be willing to sacrifice big parts of the dream. You have to master resistance, for example in the form of rejections of applications and even worse, the total silence that occurs when there is no response to your enthusiasm. But if one manages to break the code through hard work, then to have an extraordinary profession, like being a storyteller, leads to many marvelous situations that gives you a wealth of experiences that in turn expand one’s competence and skills.
High working capacity and discipline are essential, because the work is not thrown at you when the society does not understand what «you really do». Networking is necessary, my experience is to have a dynamic relationship with the network. You must expand it and something you have to let go. In the beginning, I too often said yes to all kinds of marvelous assignments from kindergarten to organizations, without really being competent at everything and without the thought of concentrating on certain segments. This is a dilemma, because you want to build up your portfolio, while at the same time there is a danger that you will do the work in a way that the client will never use a storyteller again. In other words, it involves some risk of establishing yourself, with a marginal profession, you represent an unknown opportunity that is easy to dismiss.
You must also be willing to sacrifice, because you your profession does not have a work contract that tells you which work tasks you need to do. There are many who have started a business, a career before you and you can reap some of the experience of others, yet you have to invent your own routines and tasks to reach a goal.
You have to have time and patience (and visions), because in a sense, establishing yourself in an unknown professional category that society does not understand the value of, can be like constantly being rejected as a writer. Time helps to not give up, one must enjoy the small twists and turns that are happening on the road to establishing oneself while trying to keep on to the idea of what is bigger.
I believe that it is important for society and people, that there are people like me, who work with something that is not streamlined, because a diverse society needs stumbling stones that make one stop and reflect on the possibility’s diversity provides.