I retweeted a quote a few days ago that has stuck with me. It’s from William Faulkner, and it’s this: “If a story is in you, it has to come out.”
When I first read it, it felt stunningly true. It helps that I love Faulkner—spurred by the fact that my dad loved Faulkner (but I came to love him all on my own in my 20s). But it seems right, doesn’t it? When you have to get a story out, you just have to.
I feel this pull constantly, to be honest. When I have a story I need to get it out, I feel unsettled, like a soda fizzing over ice.
So as true as this is, and as right as Faulkner clearly is, he is also sort of wrong.
Because there are also stories inside of me that I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get out. Not because they aren’t real or important or central. And not because of anything to do with energy or talent or motivation. Let’s not go to lazy and stupid just yet.
Let’s start with two other things that I think are at the root of locked up stories not showing themselves: the timing thing and the magic thing.
Getting your stories out—whether your personal stories or your brand stories—relies on these two things. A lot.
Faulkner Won’t Mind if We Revise
First, the timing thing.
So, perhaps it feels that the story of your brand is locked inside of you.
Out, damn story, out!
But . . . are you ready for it yet? Like, really ready? By ready, I mean, can you go there? Can you devote the effort and thought to telling it, or working with a person to help you tell it? I see clients get stalled all of the time—both smaller businesses and larger organizations. Even though they’ve hired me to help them. Because as persistent as I am (and I am), I can’t help them if they’re not ready to help themselves. Sometimes it’s a matter of bandwidth. As in, they don’t have it. They’re swamped with the day-to-day of running the business. Other times, it’s because they don’t quite believe their story yet. They’re fiddling around, trying it out, waiting for someone to call them out. I operated from this place for a good five years, so I get it.
To tell your story, you need some help from timing. That might mean you need to intentionally make the time. It might also mean you need to practice some purposeful waiting.
With our timing thing in mind, we could revise the quote to this: If a story is inside of you, let it come out when it’s time for it to come out.
Now, about this magic thing . . .
I don’t quite understand the magic thing. I just know it exists. Because I have felt it many times over. There are lots of ways to describe it. It’s the impetus. The weird feeling in the middle of the night. The series of coincidences that make you pay attention. For me, it’s usually a conversation. A person stirs something in me, and as soon as they say it, I suddenly know how to tell the story. I had a magic moment earlier this year while driving to the airport. Right as the person on the other end of the phone said something, I suddenly knew how to tell a story that’s been waiting to come out for more than 20 years.
Again, it comes down to purposeful waiting. Which doesn’t mean sitting around doing nothing. It means doing everything you’re doing, but with the knowledge that something glorious might tip it all and unlock that story.
With this in mind, we could revise the quote to: If a story is inside of you, be open to the idea that one day, for magic reasons, you will suddenly know how to get it out.
The man who brilliantly wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wasn’t wrong about the nature of stories to push themselves out. He just neglected to mention the person part. The story is always there. The person just has to be ready. And you can’t phone in ready. You have to inhabit it fully.