WAT’S UP – Adam Sawatsky

Leaning into life

Adam Sawatsky

The lake looked like glass. But when I hit the water after flipping off a tube being pulled by a boat going 65 km/h, it felt like smacking into cement. The last thing I remember before that was deciding to lean into the turn further than I had ever done before. Instead of experiencing a momentary rush, I’m still being treated for whiplash.

That’s a brief version of one of the more interesting stories from my summer vacation.

Jim Leard tells stories for a living. The artistic director of the Story Theatre Company has been writing and performing them for more than 30 years.

He says there are three basic elements to crafting a good one: establish a compelling character, send them on a high-stakes quest, and end with a satisfying resolution.

What about our own tale? So many of us seem to live our lives as though we are characters in somebody else’s story; reacting unconsciously to what’s being presented to us.

While teaching storytelling at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, Leard encourages his students to be self-aware. During one class he invites them to narrate their own lives. The exercise challenges them to become conscious of what’s going on in and around them.

Leard also points out that a bad storyteller can make a brilliant tale boring, while a gifted storyteller can transform the mundane into the magical. In order to be a great storyteller you need to be emotionally connected to the tale, and the audience with whom it is being shared.

I wonder if my life is like the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books that I used to read as a kid? If so, what kind of character am I creating for myself? Do I face my tale’s inevitable twists and turns with fear or bravery? Have I constructed a page-turner that’s too fast-paced to allow for moments of reflection? Or am I stuck in a NeverEnding Story of responding the same way to the same obstacles without ever overcoming them?

I began this column with a story about a completely unexpected accident. Perhaps I’ll end it by starting a new chapter of my life, more conscious about the choices I’m writing for myself.

Adam Sawatsky reports on arts & lifestyle weekdays on CTV News Vancouver Island with Hudson Mack. On weekends he hosts Eye on the Arts on CFAX 1070.

 

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