I can write, but can I tell a good digital story?

November 3, 2009

I love good storytelling.  I listen to episodes of This American Life on my I-Pod when I take long walks in the summer.  I also love waking up to public radio’s Storycorps when my alarm goes off on Friday mornings.  I don’t necessarily need images to enjoy stories.

However, I am almost always deeply moved by digital writing.  Last week, for example, I almost cried when I saw the digital writing that we created in just 45 minutes of class time.  The addition of voices and images enhanced our storytelling.  They didn’t overwhelm or cheapen it.

I say this because recently I had a conversation about digital writing with a colleague who is also a gifted writer.  He feels that digital writing cheapens writing because it speeds up the writing process.  Bloggers just “throw up” on the page and that passes for writing.  They aren’t as careful with their words. Writing, he said, should come from a place of deep contemplation. Years of thinking.  Novels are good.  Blogs are bad.

I definitely think amazing writing can come from years of thinking.  But I also think there can be honesty and poignancy in blog posts, podcasts and Voice Threads.  It’s not an either/or.  Digital storytelling is different from simple written text.  At the heart of both though is the quality of a person’s writing and storytelling abilities:

If students don’t take time to write the stories they want to tell with the computer, they won’t get below the surface of their ideas. They may create beautiful slide shows, but they will not tell stories that matter (Miller, 2007, p. 173).

I actually think digital storytelling is more challenging than just writing text. Good digital stories match text to images, voice-overs and music in a cohesive, beautiful way.  Clarity and brevity are important.  So are transitions, pacing, the order of the images and the sound and tone of your voice.  That’s a lot to consider.

Digital storytelling is pretty scary.  I’ve had a lot of training in how to write a good text (upwards of 20 years), but pairing text with audio and images is new to me.  And I have a lot of respect for people who can tell an evocative digital story. My underlying fear is that I’m not creative or artistic enough to tell a good digital story.  Art has never been my strong suit.  But writing has.  I worry that this writing challenge is going to be too much for me.


3 Responses to “I can write, but can I tell a good digital story?”

  1. Mary K said

    Kelsey I also think there can be honesty and poignancy in blog posts and yours demonstrates it admirably. As currently evolving women we will meet this digital and visual writing challenge after we have time to ponder and then decide that it doesn’t have to be anything other than what we make it. The visual is a new way to reveal our being and it will be one we use well, all in good time.

  2. wanderingturnip said

    Kelsey, sometimes I think we’re sharing the same brain 🙂 (and the same corduroys) I just posted something on JoAnn’s blog about how I have these ideas about myself (maybe I can write, but I’m definitely no artist) that can hold me back when it comes to digital storytelling. We think we have to involve all these fancy visual elements, but really we’re just telling stories! With pictures. And words.

    And if years of thinking is what it takes to be a good writer, then I say uh oh. Because too much thinking can really make a person go crazy.

  3. […] Most professional post: I can write, but can I tell a good digital story? […]

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