You have a story to tell whether it’s of an adventure, an experience, a person or a place. You may feel like a writer, or you may not. Either way, you have something worth sharing. Discovering the fascinating perspective of slow storytelling from environmental chronicler Arati Kumar-Rao might just inspire you to share your experience and finally put words on the page.
Arati is a writer, photographer, artist and National Geographic Explorer telling stories about the changing landscapes in South Asia. One aspect that makes her stories so unique is that she follows a single story over a long period of time, trickling out details in what she calls slow storytelling.
This slow storytelling comes to pass as Arati goes to the same place over different seasons, watching how people and animals change over time. She’s purposefully upleveled her skill in writing, photography and art to be able to tell these stories the way they deserve to be told.
How can slow storytelling inspire you to share your voice? Keep reading to find exciting lessons from Arati’s experience that she shared on the Tough Girl Podcast.
Lessons on Sharing Your Story from Slow Storytelling
Find a Guide
Arati knew she wanted to dive into the world of environmental storytelling but she had absolutely zero contacts in that industry when she started her journey of leaving the corporate world. So she went about building those relationships by reaching out to wildlife biologists, editors and more.
“[I reached out to] whoever would be able to teach me how to look at the world and tell these stories,” Arati says. Many of these people were generous with their time and coached Arati so she slowly started finding her way in this new space.
Social media was a big help when Arati started making these connections. Over time she went from reaching out to people on social media to being seen by people as she posted parts of her story.
Who could you connect with in order to gain a new perspective on the topic of your story? Think about the focus of your story from all sides. You may come up with an interesting idea to add more depth and knowledge to what you have to share.
Take Your Time
There is an obvious clash between slow storytelling and the speed of the internet. Many headlines today reduce a story to what’s black and white, losing the complexity of the topic at hand. Arati sees this especially when it comes to environmental stories. Instead of mass posting as much as she can, Arati uses time and geographical space to tell stories deeply.
How could you use time to tell your story in a deeper way? Arati may spend years following a single story. She even spent time growing her skills in photography and art to add another dimension to her stories.
As her story grows, Arati trickles information using these different tools of writing, photography and art. Then, she releases the complete story with the crux of the issue through her medium of choice (see her book Marginlands).
It’s not easy to tell stories slowly but sometimes it’s vital. What could your story gain with time?
Follow the Threads
Where do you start with telling a story? Arati recommends picking a point in the web of an issue and following its thread to make connections. Arati started this way and is still telling stories that began from one point in the web 10 years later.
Following the threads of a story can lead you to serendipity. As you get on the ground and start talking to people, the story will widen. Each time you speak to someone with a different perspective, you’ll see things in a new way.
Choose a place to start building your story. Follow the issues around it. Connect with people on all sides. Before you know it, your story will have grown in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
See the Value in Learning
I’ve never found any path to be wrong because there’s always learning,” Arati shares. When it comes to telling your story, you may wonder if you’re going down the wrong path. Here’s where Arati’s wisdom comes in. “In India, it’s chaotic,” she says. “With each move you’re gathering information. Not all the information goes into the story, but you’re constantly gathering.”
When Arati is building her story, she makes sure to take time to pause. She’ll spend a night or a day looking at what she’s learning and where it’s leading. Even if you reach a dead end, you’re still learning. Dead ends still lead to a good story.
Over time, the threads you gathered that didn’t go anywhere, may later make sense. It’s like a giant story you’re weaving. You collect everything, then you start to see the picture.
Let yourself explore your story wherever you’re inspired to take it. You never know where it might lead you or what you’ll learn.
No matter how much doubt is bringing you down, it’s critical to speak up. As Arati gathers information for her stories, she sees men constantly speaking up. But she can’t get a complete perspective without the voice of women. Arati often has to specifically search for women to tell their stories, as they always seem to be in the background.
“Tell your story,” Arati advises. “Don’t be afraid. It’s a wonderful point of view, a different perspective that we all have. It’s so important to tell your story even if it seems trivial. There’s something to learn from everyone’s story.”
Don’t think you have a story to tell? Arati says you just need to put on a pair of walking shoes and walk in your neighborhood. There are stories in your backyard.
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