How Business Storytelling Improved my Prospects
Simon Sinek did this TED talk - I was interested in the idea that he briefly dives into, so I got hold of his book to get deeper into what he was saying. Honestly, it wasn’t the most remarkable book ever and I was frustrated a lot by its repetition and that I never seemed to be quite grasping what he meant… however, I have managed to explain it to others so it’s clearly sinking in even if it didn't feel like it at the time.
So what is a ‘why’?
Sinek talks about we buy the why, not the what.
A why is the emotional impetus behind the creation.
A how is the targets and plans for what you are going to do.
A what is the finished product.
For example, Microsoft’s what is personal computers, the how is creating a graphic user interface, their why is to allow access to technology to improve people’s lives. Sinek argued that gates continues this through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation work, but rather than focussing on a pc in every home, it’s technology access across the world.
He talks about how Walmart lost their why and now we all hate them; Starbucks lost their why and for many years were in free fall.
What’s this got to do with writing practice?
Defining your why as a writer could revolutionise your practice. Knowing why you write the things you write makes it easier to decide whether to take work, which projects to pursue and how to sell yourself to future collaborators. By establishing your ‘why’, you give yourself a mission statement to live your practice through.
My why is to prevent another person from feeling that there is no space for them in the arts.
When I am approached to work on a project, I can ask whether it aligns with my goal or not. An advert for makeup for cis white young straight women? Not so much… but a makeup ad aligned with significant empowerment movements and caters for and actively incorporates marginalised communities - I might find my why there. - Editing note: I do not write adverts.
Knowing the emotional impetus behind my work and being able to say it means that when I am planning projects, I can assess whether they will be a headache before they begin.
When I attached myself to a directing project that I thought I 'needed' to do for the experience, and let's be honest, the money, I ended up dissatisfied and frustrated with the whole process because it didn't speak to WHY I make theatre.
Describing my why means when I am discussing my work and networking, I can quickly and succinctly tell people with confidence what work I make. If we believe Sinek, and people buy why you do something and not what you do, then in theory, I have a better chance of making a lasting impression that converts to work.
As I have only been implementing my why over the last month or so, I don’t have the data for its success. But my satisfaction with my communication in networking opportunities has improved. I ‘feel’ as if I’ve represented myself well, which as someone who deals with imposter syndrome is undoubtedly helpful. I have found that I can feel more comfortable with the work I have on my plate and devote more time to making it the best it can be. I was talking to some colleagues about an upcoming project. They spoke about how a businesswoman stumbled across her own version of Sinek's Why ... by rejecting the capitalist notion that everything should be endlessly expanding, by recognising that people, the world, and resources are finite, we are able to make work that sustains us both financially and crucially in that area that some people call the 'soul'.
So how do you find your why?
I have come up with a few things I did in order to nail down what it means to be Bex Bowsher - writer and theatre-maker. Perhaps these will help you, or perhaps not, but I hope they give you a starting point.
1. Examine all your work.
Ask yourself: What themes come up again and again? What audiences are you typically writing for? Which projects really got your heart and mind engaged? Write down some of the thoughts that jump out.
2. Reflect on your journey as a writer.
What was your journey into writing? Was it escape? Was it accidental or deliberate? As you think through these questions write down thoughts in ways that make sense to you.
3. As yourself Why do I write?
Write down the whys that are there but don’t get your heart going. For me, these included: to try and make some money through illness; to work around my family commitments; because I felt I am not qualified for anything else. Ask yourself why and keep asking until you can’t come up with answers anymore. Chances are your why is amongst all those answers.
4. Refine your answers.
Once you’ve identified it, it’s about refining it. Writing is editing, right? So make it pretty specific, and make it pretty succinct. Then print it out and stick it to your wall to ruminate on every day. I’m just kidding. If you’re like me, it’ll stick because all this process is doing is putting into words what you already know in your heart.
What’s your why? Let me know in the comments.