|This post was going to get all nerdy and a little political on you, and then, I had a come-to-Jesus moment and decided to simplify.
Even more, I’ve got just a few measly minutes to push this post out to you, so I can’t pull out Lindsay-as-professor on you.
But here’s my question: How in the hells bells do I teach you what I want you to learn without getting so deep into the weeds that I lose you all together?
I dunno. But here goes nothing.
A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany.
All that literary theory I studied in college was showing its beautiful, complicated head in every facet of my work. I realized that so much of traditional brand storytelling doesn’t resonate with me because in my heart of hearts, I’m a phenomenologist, a deconstructionist, and a sometimes feminist. I see the world through a lens that screams, “no body puts baby in a corner,” and I try to avoid broad brush assumptions like a kick-butt game of childhood hopscotch.
But I also know that just because someone else chooses a different path of storytelling. . . it most certainly does NOT make their storytelling bad or wrong.
I think I know this because inherently, I’m wired to be a wannabe philosopher. But I also know this because I spent $100K earning a college degree that taught me how to think and see beyond the obvious. (Note: I have no idea if I spent $100K. I certainly didn’t borrow that much. The government was nice and gave me some money that I later paid back in interest and taxes. I also had lots of scholarships -→ because I was a poor married student, not because I was wicked smart.)
Back to my epiphany.
After said epiphany, I ordered a book, In Search of Authority, by Stephen Bonnycastle. Stephen has all the smarts I wish I had, and he talks at just the right level about all things literary theory. He also helps me imagine I’m 20 years old again, sitting in Dr. Nancy Dayton’s ENG 350 class and talking about people like Derrida and Saussure.
Stephen’s basic premise is that there are many ways to read a story, and while NO one way is right or wrong, the method you choose determines EVERYTHING ELSE. In fact, the theory you choose to help lead you through a story becomes your very framework for truth. (see the possible theories below)
Moral Criticism, Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-present)
Formalism, New Criticism, Neo-Aristotelian Criticism (1930s-present)
Psychoanalytic Criticism, Jungian Criticism(1930s-present)
Marxist Criticism (1930s-present)
Reader-Response Criticism (1960s-present)
New Historicism/Cultural Studies (1980s-present)
Post-Colonial Criticism (1990s-present)
Feminist Criticism (1960s-present)
Gender/Queer Studies (1970s-present)
Critical Race Theory (1970s-present)
Critical Disability Studies (1990s-present)
|Stephen actually calls these theories paradigms. In my world, I call them worldviews.
And knowing what paradigm you hold is a critical piece for reading and writing any story because, as Stephen says. . .
“recognizing the existence of paradigms has a fundamental effect on the way a person engages in dialogue. When you are talking with another person, you become aware that there are basically two distinct possibilities: either you share a paradigm, or there is a paradigm conflict between you and the other person. You need to proceed in very different ways in these two cases. When you share a paradigm, you can move much more quickly, you can predict better what the other will say, and you can count on your evidence being accepted. Your dialogue can be tight, precise, and even witty. You can willingly accept a good deal of toughness and anger because you share a basic commitment with the other person.
And when we don’t share the same paradigm?
Well then, Stephen says we have to be more careful and more open. We’ve got to listen EXTREMELY carefully and we can’t assume that the other person experiences the world in the same way we do. Even more, we have to make greater effort to understand the other person’s world, and we must expect that some of the other’s truths will not be valid for us.
So why does this matter right now, at 10:50 on an early October morning?
Because. . . We are all stepping into story with a very particular paradigm. We each have a worldview that shapes how we see and how we tell stories, and that worldview shapes the TRUTH we emerge with.
And when you don’t know what your paradigm is, when you’ve not done the work of discovering the pieces of your own worldview, then story loses its power – over you + over everyone else in your orbit.
(Example: Here’s where I get a little political. When Chris Wallace asked Trump about his opposition to Critical Race Theory during Tuesday night’s horror show, Trump couldn’t answer effectively because he didn’t approach his answer from the concept of a paradigm/worldview. Trump isn’t necessarily objecting to ANY type of racial sensitivity training. Rather, he’s rejecting training as taught through the lens of Critical Race Theory. He wants to approach the national narrative from a different lens. While we can debate the wisdom of that desire until the cows come home. . . the crux of the matter boils down to a difference in paradigm. And if we would discuss hot button issues with that perspective, maybe we’d skip the clown show next time. Critical side note: I’m a registered Independent.)
Friends, the long arc of storytelling shows us that there are a baker’s dozen ways to tell a story. But if you want to tell YOUR story in a way that makes space for dialogue, for connection, for acceptance, for perspective. . . then you have to begin by getting super clear on the paradigm you’re using.
How are you wired?
How do you see the world?
Why are you here?
What has gone wrong with the world?
What do we need to do to fix it?
^ Those are a few questions you need to start asking yourself if you want to expose your own paradigm.
And once you’ve got your answers, remember, the person sitting next to you likely has a VERY DIFFERENT SET of their own answers.
So if you want your story to reach into their soul and stir them to action, your next step is learning everything you can about their paradigm.
It’s not easy work.
It’s not simple work.
And it’s not formulaic work.
But it’s the kind of work I lead my clients through, and the result is the creation of a brand story that MOVES people to action, a brand story that connects with an audience, and a brand story that truly reflects your worldview.
Want to chat about what that might look like for you? Let’s connect.