I drove 400 miles to attend a one-day storytelling course to try to improve my storytelling during podium presentations. The class’s title was “The Well Written Nurse: Storytelling for Health Care Professionals” taught by Ersilia Pompilio, a freelance writer and author who also happens to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Consultant, and Nurse Professor/Educator. A NURSE! Ersilia was GREAT and the course was AWESOME! The other three persons attending the class were NURSES as well and they were GREAT storytellers.
The class had the following objectives:
1. Explain and understand the basic composition used in storytelling structure.
2. Construct a compelling personal true life story.
3. Perform a 5-7 minute story in front of an audience.
4. Understand the basic concept for submitting an article, essay, or opinion editorial to a journal/book for publication.
Prior to the class, we were given the following homework instructions:
I CANNOT STAND HOMEWORK. But that is another story. Anyhow, I sat down and this is what I came up with,
During the class, we had to read out loud stories written by others. Another one of my disinterest, of many, reading and reading out loud my least favorite. Anyhow, I was not in charge and the reading was a requirement so I did my best. We also had timed writing prompts that focused on the just learned lesson. Once the time expired, it was pens down and we took turns reading out loud what we had written, finished or not. Again, reading out loud not my favorite but I already moaned about that at least twice already, if anyone is counting. Interestingly, one of the things we were taught in the class was “Non c’è due senza tre” which is Italian for “The rules of three” and an example of how humans process information through repetition, three being the smallest number for that. Thus, to ALL those who say my writings are repetitious it is ONLY because you DIDN’T get it the first and second times it was mentioned, or the third time, the fourth, the fifth...
It wasn’t too long into the class before the first writing prompt and ice breaker gave us just 10 minutes to craft a compelling opening to our story. The theme for this exercise was about our personal journey after waking up that morning. This is what I came up with:
My three classmates in the course all had really good and attention getting stories right out of the blocks. WOW! Although NOT intentional the bar was set pretty high I thought. GOOD! I am in the right place.
The second writing prompt allowed us a whopping 15 minutes, sarcasm intended, to write about one of the following:
1. Best day of our life/Worse day of our life
2. Worst job ever/Best job ever
Despite all the crap I go through with unhappy customers at work I am grateful I CANNOT ever single out a single day or job that has ever been the WORSE. NOT one, as I find the WORSE to be a far extreme knowing someone, somewhere on any given moment has a worse day or job than I thus I DO NOT complain. On the other hand, I have had MANY best days in my life. Thus, I thought picking any of those BEST days would either diminish the other BEST days or I might unintentionally leave one of them out. Thus, I wrote about my BEST job and that was, as I documented in the book, my time in the U.S. Army. Like Bu La’ia used to say in Hawaii, “Da BEST of the BESTEST!” Of my ten-plus year in the U.S. Army my greatest achievement was taking eleven Joes (soldiers) to war and bringing them ALL back in the same manner I started out with them, at least physically. Here is what I wrote for the second writing prompt.
In comparison to my classmates, who I am guessing belted their composition impromptu, I somewhat cheated on this assignment as I have already written this story in the book and have told it many more times before. Because of that, with minimal recollection I was able to rewrite it without much effort. That said, reading the story out loud is a different topic as this story is very emotional for me for many reasons. And no matter how many times I have told it my voice cracks every time, sometimes more than others and sometimes with tears. This time no different. And despite the pauses and the clearing of my throat it took quite the effort. But with Ersilia’s and of my classmates’ patience I got through it. The irony, if permitted, all of this writing, the book, the blog, Facebook and Twitter, were supposed to be therapy in some manner. However, and where the irony is, ALL of this much-needed therapy has NEVER been for my time in the military or because of war. Instead, ALL of this much-needed therapy has been and continues to be for my time as a healthcare worker where I must constantly prove my desire to help others and my belonging as a nurse. That said, I am not sure any of this writing or speaking on the topic has been or has not been therapeutic in any manner or for any reason. Regardless, I will continue to write and speak about customer service in healthcare and ALL the collateral damage it has left behind. Because, if NOT me, who?
The third writing prompt exercise focused on writing about a time when a failure turned into success where we had come full circle. We were allowed 15minutes to write. Below is what I wrote:
Again, this was another story in the book thus I rewrote it with minimal recollection and without much effort. As before, my voice cracking, this time tears welling in my eyes which I struggled to keep from running down my cheeks. Because, as mentioned already, these stories, whether reading them out loud or rethinking them while alone they are a different matter for me. By no means are these post-traumatic stories, not even close. But nonetheless they are very emotional to me, each of them for many reasons, and how they found themselves in a book about customer service in healthcare. Not because any of them have anything to do with customer service or healthcare. But because of how I must justify being a nurse and my desire to help others against those who tell me I should find another profession, to include colleagues. Nonetheless and once again with Ersilia’s and my classmates’ patience I got through it.
The fourth writing prompt asked us to close our eyes and imagine one of our favorite places. For this exercise, we were given 15 minutes to describe this place while also asking the deeper questions—what does each detail really mean to us? This I thought was the most challenging exercise of the class as I have the hardest of times describing ANY the five senses, seeing, taste, smell, touch and sound. And that is during conversation but even more so during writing. Nonetheless, I gave it my best shot, noticeable by the low word count in comparison to the other compositions, and this is what I came up with:
Lastly, the fifth writing prompt and the overall objective of the class. This time we were given a whooping thirty minutes, again, being sarcastic. During those thirty minute we were to construct a compelling personal true life story we would perform within 5-7 minutes in front of an audience. For this exercise, the theme was that we had fifteen minutes to live and within those final minutes we would share our story with someone else who would relay it to others as our final words. The caveat, we likely would tell parts of our story that were important to us and leave out those that were not from a story that could span a lifetime to just those last seconds.
However, we were also given the option to free-write whatever we wanted to write. And I chose the latter as I found the first alternative a bit more demanding and I did not believe I could belt out such a compelling 5-7 minute story within the allotted thirty minutes. Not to mention, despite my interest and appreciation for the class, after a long morning and a late lunch/early dinner just before the last exercise I was fading fast. And although I began to put something together with the first life story option the neurons in my brain just weren’t firing fast enough. Thus, I stopped what I was composing from scratch and looked for something I had already written. I know, I cheated again but I was really tired and not sure what I started writing made any sense to me and would make less sense to the audience. Nonetheless, for this exercise I pulled up something from my last podium presentation and edited to fit this exercise instead of writing something from scratch, like my classmates did. Thus, some might recognize the words below:
The presentation was received well. One of my classmates stating, “No one is saying that.” Which I interpreted as my words were unique. Which they are and what I been told by many at different conferences. However, no one else is saying them. NOT because they DO NOT agree, but because so many shy away from the premise of my words and their intent and my intent, to push back and push back hard. That said, they ONLY shy away because the risk is too high for them to take. And I understand.
Yes, I drove 400 miles there and 400 miles back. That is NOT a typo! That is 800 miles. For what? To read out loud, which I HATE (“Non c’è due senza tre” or third time is the charm), and to write five, ten to thirty minute, writing exercises and present one of them to an audience with a mic in hand and all. However, for me, the driving is NO big deal. For what? An AMAZING learning experience. Not only an AMAZING EXPERIENCE but to spend the time with such AWSOME storytellers! Ersilia and my classmates. WOW! @nurseshypochond THANK YOU for the useable wealth of information and your COACHING! Not only do I see myself improving at the podium but I also see myself rewriting and republishing the book. Not sure when or where I will find the time to do so but that is the MOTIVATION, DIRECTION AND PURPOSE I got out of the class. Thank you!