So I can be a little long-winded. As a younger writer, I always felt that the ability to use big words and expressive descriptions is what justified you as a writer. Verbosity. Eloquence. Attention to and expression of detail. After all, I did read a lot of Henry James and Charles Dickens in university. They were the pros, right?
However, good storytelling is not about explaining as much as you can in as many flowery words as possible. It is about narrowing in on what’s relevant, what progresses the plotline, or what highlights the imperatives. It’s about what moves us - what keeps the reader’s attention and touches them in important ways, with urgency.
Recently my work has had me focused on marketing and, specifically, selling ourselves in the career world. Resumes. Cover letters. Personal, professional storytelling.
Last month I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink! in which he talks about “thin-slicing”, or “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.” This, I found, is the essence of story-telling in marketing and resume building. Potential employers are reading (skimming, most of the time) for narrow slices of information that cut to the core of who you are and what you bring to the table. They want the “thin-slices” of your professional identity so they can find the best fit as efficiently as possible.
The same goes for all marketing techniques these days. We are a culture of paper-thin attention spans with slivers of time to dedicate to anything. We view the world in strobe-light images and want information delivered in quick blips of data.
But we still want to be inspired. Charmed. Entertained. Just as long as it’s in less than eight seconds, give or take.
Storytelling is a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one. The ability to keep someone’s attention is no easy feat, and if you can deliver an inspiring message in that narrow window of time, you have achieved something almost miraculous.
And in life, that can be what keeps you out of the slush pile and moves you into a something amazing.
Maybe someday soon, books and novels will all be written in bullet points. Really beautiful, inspiring ones. For now, as long as your resume has a focused collection of good ones, you’re in a pretty good spot.