How to Create Your Own Powerful Story in 3 Steps

Yesterday, we explored the science of storytelling and how it informs and drives conservation work. We specifically talked about why every time you tell your own personal story, it makes the work we do at Idaho Conservation League stronger. Today we are continuing this series to give you information on how to create your own powerful story.

1. Pick your topic.  

Take a couple of moments to think about 10 things in your life that you are grateful for. Do any of them feature safe and healthy living standards like clean water or clean air? What about pristine places to recreate with your family and friends? Next, take a couple more moments to think about 5 things in your life you wish were different.  Did your asthma flare up today because of the inversion? Are you stranded at an Idaho bus station somewhere wishing our public transportation was better? Did your public lands get privatized? If you’re having trouble thinking of what is important check out ICL’s current calls to action.  

Focus on a subject you’re passionate about. Once you pick a topic, think about how it has impacted your life for better or for worse. Pick one specific event that exemplifies your experiences. Write it down, or practice in the mirror. You don’t need to have the whole thing memorized. Just have a clear sense of the basics. Research suggests that the most effective stories have clear beginnings, middles, and ends. It also does not have to be “the perfect story” or have earth-shattering details. It only needs to be true and authentic to you. (ICL will be launching a full-blown, story-telling project at the end of the month surrounding Idaho’s iconic steelhead and salmon. Start thinking of your best fish stories now!)

2. Reassess and clean it up.

Before you solidify your story it’s good practice to look at the story in new ways. Ask yourself what would this story look like from a different perspective. Try to recall what led up to the event. Remember what the consequences of the event were. Was there something you learned or felt? Challenge yourself to use all five senses when telling your story. Try to use your sense of sight the least. Once you’ve identified which details give you the most vivid story, toss out the rest.

3. Identify your medium and share your story.

Share your story in a way meaningful to you. If a conservationist has a great story but only tells it to their dog while hiking in the Clearwater National Forest, does it make a difference? No! Your dog might be excited about your insights but they can’t help you spread the word.  Put your story to use! This is not restricted to traditional letters to the editor or contacting your local representatives (although these things have the potential to motivate the most change). Tell your story at a local storytelling event. See if any local publications are taking submissions. Write a song and sing it at an open mic night. Find a poetry slam. Share your important story with your friends and family.  

Whatever you decide, don’t forget to ask for other people’s stories. Your most powerful action may be to encourage  them to share their stories, too.

My Story – An Example of Tying a Specific Event to Conservation

Below is an example of how I might put my personal story into a public comment for the ongoing Salmon-Challis National Forest Revision Plan:

My body was only halfway on the Thermarest, my morning breath was off the charts, and there was a sore spot in my back from where the peanut butter jar continuously rubbed into my back from the hike in the day before. But before I opened my eyes.  I could feel the cool air from Salmon-Challis National Forestlands swirling around in my nose. A symphony of birds, bugs, and gentle breezes grazed my ears. Warmth cocooned me in my well-loved sleeping bag. The muscles on my upper cheekbones slowly drew my mouth into a full and toothy smile. I felt so lucky to be waking up in what seemed to be my own private Idaho. Having lived in five different states with varying amounts of public lands, I was overcome with gratitude that these types of open spaces exist-and that my favorite ones are in my home state and backyard.

As someone who just passed a decade of guiding in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I did not have these opportunities to go climb, hike, fish, swim, raft, ski, and play in my local public lands. In addition to the things that bolster my own quality of life-I also have the privilege of guiding hundreds of people through this wilderness section, by boat, each year. In my time guiding, I have met people from all over the world. The families I get to take from Idaho get to have a more intimate and proud connection with the state they already love. However, many of our guests from out of state never get to see pristine watersheds or dark and starry skies in their day to day lives. In addition to bringing commerce to the state and supporting our economy, these visitors are genuinely fascinated by the history, wildlife and natural resources they get to observe.

As you move forward with the revisions to the Salmon-Challis forest plan, I would personally heavily advocate for the inclusion of…

Coming soon: ICL shows how to share your story using one of our most pressing topics – salmon and steelhead. Stay tuned!