I can remember a couple of occasions in my young adulthood on which I was an exceptionally poor storyteller. My main offense was one of the things I most often bemoan and berate now: turning some mundane occurrence into an anecdote.
I don’t remember to whom I was speaking, but I remember sometime before April 1991 (because that’s when I sold my Celica, and I remember still having it) telling some poor victim about a caffeine withdrawal headache I’d had recently. I remember specific things I said, the way I said them, and so forth, and I did a terrible job with it. I wish the person would have walked away instead of politely enduring it. It would have hurt my feelings, but it likely also would have improved the tendency more quickly.
I know I’m better at it today, though sometimes when I tell something that hits more softly than I expected, I think “am I going to consider that a caffeine headache story in 20 years?”
I’ve written here continuously for almost seven years. When I have occasion to read something here that I wrote in 2006 or 2007, I’m nearly always at least all right with it, which makes me happy.
But writing isn’t speaking. I want to be good at both. I want to stay good at both. Consequently, if you’re someone who’s regularly around when I tell stories, relate events, or whatever, I want you to tell me if I do it badly. Don’t pull punches either. “Not funny.” “Too crude for this crowd.” Whatever. Value honesty over politeness.
I’m subjected to enough bad storytelling to wonder about it occasionally. “Was he always that awful, or did this happen gradually?” “Does she not notice that everyone has broken eye contact with her?” So I’m asking you to help me. I’ll feel better with that additional safeguard. Thank you.