3 Ways to Boost Your Storytelling Mojo

Image by Canva.com.

Image by Canva.com.

A few weeks ago the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed into New York to join protests and to attend climate talks.

Great Thunberg Sails Into New York.JPG

This incredibly brave, focused young woman certainly has found her storytelling mojo, and she's inspiring more than the youth of the world to stand up for the planet in a very serious way.

I'm very inspired that she's sticking to her goal of no airline travel. When all seemed lost for her to travel across the ocean, the marvelous solution of a solar powered sail boat was offered to escort her to the U.S.

This great act of creative thinking and generosity (from the royal family of Monica no less) reminds us that fresh solutions to great challenges abound, but we've got to tap into our creativity to allow them to come forward.

Fall and end of year fundraising is just around the corner.

How would you like your own, or your organization's, storytelling to be more authentically, emotionally and visually engaging?

The graphic platform Canva is now free to registered nonprofits to help your storytelling. It also has a free level for entrepreneurs. Better images and layouts are fabulous ways to improve your storytelling skills.

But what about you personally? What about your team? How can you better harness your own storytelling mojo?

Today I'd like to talk to you about three ways I'm tapping into greater creativity for my own storytelling that I think you'll find very useful too.

Give Yourself Permission To:

1. Cultivate Your Curiosity

The Buddhist call this The Beginner's Mind. Question your assumptions. Question your beliefs. Are they really true, or are they just things you're used to thinking? They can be modified and even abandoned when we realize they no longer serve us anymore.

I can't...I'm not good at...I'll never be able to...these people are jerks...that group will never get it...

Becoming curious is one of the first big steps in creative breakthroughs.

Personally, I thought that I just didn't have the mental bandwidth to ever understand how to create illustrations on Photoshop and the other super sophisticated Adobe programs. I just couldn't understand the language of the programs, how they thought.

I began to have breakthroughs when I asked a friend who's a rock star STEAM educator and a librarian specialist for middle school kids for help in understanding a few tools. That was so inspiring I began looking on YouTube for artists who could explain things in a way that I could understand.

This is key, you must find teachers who speak in a way that you can understand, that makes sense for your way of thinking.

Every week, sometimes every day, some new "aha" is clicking for me on how to better use these programs to create what I have in my mind's eye. I look forward to sharing some of my new designs and coloring pages with you soon.

2. Create Space for Inspiration & Fresh Thinking

You need to get out of your old paths of thinking and doing in order to allow the creative juices to flow. For me, since I work from home, this means that I need to get out of the house at least a couple of times a week with the specific aim of going to someplace new and being inspired by visually interesting and beautiful places.

Author Julia Cameron of the world famous book “The Artist’s Way” calls this an “artist date” - but I didn’t know that when I started having them. Isn’t that cool?

My partner Charlie and I are in the process of discovering many of the larger parks and historic port towns in the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas. I'm finding that the mix of nature plus interesting towns and shops is sparking all kinds of new ideas for my illustrations.

For you this could mean taking a different route home from work, taking a walk at lunch someplace in nature or a local park, setting aside regular time to journal or sketch (not just drawing but writing ideas), checking out stores you've never gone into but that have interesting window displays, or spending time on Canva, or Pinterest, or other visually alluring platforms for ideas that spark your fancy.

This isn't time to read or watch and learn skills to put into practice right now. This is time to create space for your own brain to relax and allow the creative juices to flow. Even setting aside half an hour regularly can reap big rewards. Try it!

3. Stream of Consciousness Journaling

Julia Cameron
also pioneered the concept of "morning pages". This is a practice of writing three stream of consciousness journal pages at the start of each day.

What the heck does stream of consciousness writing mean? It means write anything, anything at all, no judgement what so ever. Even if you write "I don't know what to write" it's perfect, it's fine.

What you find as you do this is that you're able to get clearer on ideas you've been chewing on, things you're curious about come forward, ideas spark. Commit to trying it for a month and I think you'll be delighted by what unfolds.

Creating Visual Connectivity for Increased Engagement

Screenshot from   Moda City's   recent video for Vancouver. See the actual video below.

Screenshot from Moda City's recent video for Vancouver. See the actual video below.

The need for great visual content is on the rise if you want your product, service, movement or policy to make a positive impact today and flourish.

Straight out promoting is giving way to content marketing, aka storytelling marketing, or even "helpful tips" marketing as the public becomes savvier about how they make choices about how to spend their time and their money.

Video is where visual content is moving to, especially short videos.

This can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you're a small team (or say a team of one, as I often am), or on a tight budget, or both.

That's why I like to use the framing tool of visual connectivity to edit my various communications pieces. It's the second of the four ways I use "framing" as an editing tool to create more engaging communications and storytelling.

Whether you're going to use stock imagery and graphics, or create your own images, graphics and videos from scratch, you can use "framing" to break things down into far easier and more doable baby steps.

Visual Framing Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Does this visual (video, photo, graphic, etc.) I have in mind make emotionally engaging sense for the communication or story I want to use it for?

Whether you want to portray happiness and well-being, or alarm to inspire action, your visual imagery or video work best if they match your tone.

In the video above REI breaks down how easy it is to make your own granola bars in a very cleverly made video, and reinforces their focus on being helpful to those who want to get outside more. By focusing on the ingredients and just the "hands" making them they've tremendously simplified the creation process for the video.

2. Does this visual I have in mind make sense considering the market or audience I want to attract more of?

If I want to attract more baby boomers to bicycling (who have the disposable income) maybe images of young men with beards on mountain bikes or super young super skinny urban hipsters aren't my best choices for models.

Or if you want to attract more women it might be a really good idea to focus 80% of your imagery on them.

From June 22nd to 24th, 2018, HUB Cycling will host its third annual #BikeToShop Days, an event designed to encourage more Metro Vancouverites to run errands by bike, and increase business support for better bicycle infrastructure. In addition to in-store discounts, celebration stations, curated rides, and tons of prizes.

3. Does the visual(s) I have in mind move my brand, movement, policy, product etc. in the direction I NOW want to go?

Is what I'm sharing moving me forward or backward in the story I want to tell about who we are and what we do?

Since 2012 the husband and wife creative team of Melissa and Chris Bruntlett ofModaCity have been creating fun engaging videos to showcase happy, healthier living through active, sustainable transportation.

Above is one of their 2018 pieces in collaboration with Hub for Bike to Shop Days: Downtown Vancouver.

>> Stage the background for your videos + images so they're more pleasing to look at.

ModaCity demonstrates the fun of biking to shop by sharing a day of shopping by bike with four preteen girls cleverly narrated by the President & CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement District. It's a very clever move.

In one swoop they illustrate beautifully the buy-in by the business district AND that biking can mean freedom for young people.

The storytelling is staged to shows off not only different scenes of downtown Vancouver well, but the local bike infrastructure as well.

This, by the way, is organized in advanced through a process called "storyboarding" which we'll delve into deeper in the future.

Instagram - benefit of bicycling.png

>> Consider creating templates

Whether you're creating power points for live presentations and webinars, or social media still images, graphics or video, you don't reinvent the wheel every time, consider instead using a template, or a series of them depending on the platform.

Templates can help you create a stronger brand presence with a consistent look and feel, and once they're set up, they can help you save substantial time.

You can baby step your way into this by testing fonts and color choices out first (and again for those new to graphic design Canva.com is a great low-cost way to wade in).

As you know I'm in the process of developing a line of my illustrations as graphic clip art, cards, journals and other gifts to help support the work I do with Pedal Love.

I'm testing out different fonts so I can narrow it down to just 3 choices.

This way I'll make it easier to create social media cards quickly AND as I create products for sale I'll only have 3 fonts I need to have the rights to use.

Note: If you're going to sell items and use Canva you'll need to buy an extended license from them.