“Show, don’t tell.”
Those words were an incessant reminder to me during my first freshman year English class with one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Freeman. She was constantly reminding us through all of our papers and essays and even short paragraphs to show, rather than tell.
Now, almost 10 years later, I still find that advice to be useful. This past week I have been attempting to write an essay for a travel story writing competition as well as a grant for students at my school to visit a state university.
My sister read the essay about my experience teaching English in Chile and wrote back to me, “I liked it BUT what I would like even more, is to hear your voice throughout the essay. There are small parts where it shines through beautifully.” She includes an excerpt of one specific part and says, “This is perfect because you are showing, not telling. DO MORE OF THAT.”
All the information about the logistics of the program, working in a public school in Chile, and living with a host family was there. But I didn’t include enough of my voice.
In getting feedback of my grant proposal draft, the woman from the foundation spoke to me on the phone and told me she understood the logistics of what I was proposing, but what I was lacking was quotes from kids, pictures, and success stories. Because people don’t know what is actually going on inside the walls of my school, she prompted me to tell the story a little more. To show why the kids of CHS would benefit so greatly from this project.
It seems coincidental that these happened back to back, and that I have been increasingly interested in storytelling – whether it be live storytelling, personal narratives, digitally, or even in something like a grant proposal. Everyone has a story to share, and the way it is received depends so much on how it is delivered. It sounds so simple, when in reality we often drift away from it without even realizing.
I think the phrase “show, don’t tell” can apply to many different aspects of our lives. It is a gentle reminder not to tell someone what you are going to do, but show them through hard work, dedication, and compassion. It is a gentle reminder to break free from the monotony of logistics and add a little sparkle to show someone your spirit and convey a story. It is a gentle reminder to reach into that vulnerable part of your heart and share what you find.
Show, don’t tell.