Storytelling at Work
May 13, 2020
The Power of Presence & Curiosity


Sitting here in my self-isolated, semi-lockdown AirBB bedroom, 30 minutes outside of Melbourne and 10,000 miles from home, I find myself with more time than usual to reflect on my life.

One cherished memory that surfaced for me yesterday was an extraordinary experience I had, several years ago, with a good friend, Erika Andersen -- both of us working closely together at Tim Gallwey's Inner Game Corporation in LA.

I was in the middle of an intensive 30-day writing project -- one that required a major dose of "self-isolation" -- and had gotten to the point where I was completely stuck, blocked, and tangled. Standing on a creative ledge overlooking the void, I needed help, big time. My perspective was shot. My ability to see the big picture was gone. And I was, shall we say, bummed and brutalized by my own fevered mind.

That was precisely the moment when the very gracious Ms. Erika walked into my cabin, smiled, sat down, and grokked my whole situation in a heartbeat.

There, on the floor, were wall-to-wall sheets of typewritten paper, each one representing 28 alternate endings of my still forming make-your-own adventure book I was writing for Atari under an impossible deadline, never having written a book before.

I had no idea where I was. I had no idea how to proceed. Absolutely nothing made sense.

Erika, God bless her, was cool, calm, and collected. Though she noticed the frazzled nature of my mind, she wasn't hooked by it. She just sat there, a calm presence about her and very, very curious. Instead of judging me, trying to save me, or avoiding my madness altogether, she just sat there, breathing, gradually expressing her interest.

One by one, Erika began asking me questions, leaving plenty of time and space for me to respond. Her progression of questions, coming from a realm of clarity I had no access to, changed the game for me -- each one a lifesaver tossed to a man overboard.

Overwhelmed as I was with too many choices and my own hairball of complexity, she simplified things for me, each question she asked drawing my attention back to the moment and my original fascination for writing the book in the first place.

Erika's patience helped me become patient. Her curiosity helped me become curious. Her willingness to hang in there with me gave me the courage and grace to hang in there with myself -- and for that, I will always be grateful.

Thank you, dear Erika! I learned a lot from you that unforgettable night. You are a blessing on this Earth.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: No matter how much one's creative work requires solitude and immersion, there are times when what's really needed is the guiding, patient, non-judgmental presence of a friend -- someone whose vibe has the power to work miracles. Is there someone in your life, these days, who might be good to check in with?

What Thomas Wolfe said about his own version of this phenomenon
Erika's website

The back story of the book I was writing then

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at May 13, 2020 09:36 PM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

Order the book:

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Do you want to know more about the book before buying it? Click here for Mitch's response to frequently asked questions about Storytelling at Work – the perfect book for people who think they have no time to read.
The Workshop
Storytelling is an "unconscious competency" – an ability we all have that all too often remains inaccessible to us. Enter the Storytelling at Work workshop – a simple way to activate this powerful, innate skill.
Wisdom Circles
Want to establish a culture of storytelling in your organization or community? Looking for a simple way to help people to share their meaningful, memorable stories with each other? Here's how.
Podcasts & Videos
Click here to view and listen to a series of interviews with the author of this blog. Go beyond the written word. Listen. Feel. Elevate the conversation. Understand what the big deal is about personal storytelling.
Blogs 'R Us
If you like this blog, you might also like Mitch's other two blogs: The Heart of Innovation and The Heart of the Matter. Mitch is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
Idea Champions
When Mitch isn't writing, he's captaining the good ship Idea Champions, a leading edge innovation consulting and training company based in Woodstock, NY. What their clients say.