Monday, April 9, 2012

The Storytelling Guild

A friend of mine once gave me a book called "The Way of the Storyteller" by Ruth Sawyer. And I can never really get past the first chapter of that book. Not because it was boring, but rather because, even at the very first chapter, I am already flooded with thoughts that demand me to put down the book and question, plan... imagine.

I really should finish this book one of these days. But for today, let's talk about Storytelling.

What I like about what the writer said is her wish for Storytelling to be a guild, just like trades in the old days. I was in Hanoi a few years ago, and the shops around Hoan Kiem Lake clearly demonstrated to me the concept of guilds. Each area had its own specialty. There is the concept of master and apprentice. And learning is passed down, not by books, but from one practitioner to another.

This is what the writer hopes for Storytelling. And I cannot help but wish for it as well.

One would probably argue that the mentor-apprentice style of teaching is not really relevant anymore in this day and age. I disagree. Rolex disagrees. Did you know that Rolex has a Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative?

Maybe locally, we could come up with something like this. I sure wish so. Whether it is oral or written Storytelling, I do believe that we need to interact and learn from people who actually tell stories. I'm sure some of us tried to come up with a mentor-apprentice program, too. I guess we weren't ready yet, then. The reasons are different for each attempt, but here are some that I have observed:

Comfort in Solitude
The problem with some of us writers, and I, myself, am guilty of this, is that we often tend to be solitary creatures. We often think we can figure things out for ourselves if given enough time. And maybe it's true. But wouldn't it be so much more interesting if a mentor actually took the time to teach us. Or, if we have some experience, wouldn't it be nice to have an apprentice to pass what we know to? Think of the speed of the progress in Storytelling we would have as a country if, instead of keeping techniques to ourselves, we could share it, and thus, develop it faster than if we would do it by ourselves.

As humans, though, we have an innate need to connect to other people. And some of you may argue that we actually want to connect with other writers. Except, where are they? And how exactly do you connect with them? (Once you figure that out, let me know. But I think book groups are one way to draw them out. Speaking of which, anyone interested in forming one?)

Lack of Time
Also, in our case here in the Philippines, most of us don't do writing as a full-time job. We just can't afford to do so. During the day, we have our work: doing business, practicing law, teaching, working in IT, etc. Then at night, we have our passion: writing. Already, we have little time for our passion. Mentoring someone is just too difficult time-wise.

Limited Range of Genre
Another problem we have locally is the limited range of genre we study. The folks at the university (and I love them) don't often have fantasy as a required reading. The required readings in school are not often the books our readers normally read. But that's because other genres are still quite new for most of the country. And so, there are not enough experienced writers for a lot of genres. For an aspiring writer whose chosen genre is, say, dystopian fantasy, do we have many experienced writers in that genre to act as mentors? Most likely, the answer is no.

But despite these obstacles, I think we can come up with a program to help writers improve. We have university fellowships, and I think that's a good start. I still look forward to a mentor-apprentice program. And I do believe we'll get there. First things first, though. I think we should start connecting.

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