What does a crockpot have to do with storytelling
Irving Naxon, the inventor of the crockpot, once revealed the inspiration behind his invention.
His grandmother grew up in a small village in Lithuania. Each Friday, her mother would send her to the local bakery with a pot of uncooked “cholent” to be put in the oven. The pot would sit there for the whole day. While the family observed the Sabbath, the dying fire of the oven would cook the stew. At sundown, she will bring back the pot and the family would have the steamy delicious stew for dinner.
That simple story stayed with Naxon for the rest of his life. He wanted to prepare the same kind stew but in the convenience of his home. He figured out a way to create a heating element that surrounded the pot in the same way it would surround an oven in a bakery. His invention was not only easy to use but also consumed less electricity. And it didn’t cost much. He called his invention ‘Naxon Beanery.’
Naxon Beanery later named the crockpot is central to western cooking. A simple story told by his grandmother led to change the western culinary history forever.
Stories have power to inspire.
Before TV, before internet, before mobile phones, stories used to be the medium to pass knowledge from one generation to another.
Religion, society, culture, families all used stories to teach values, develop character, and provide inspiration.
As human beings, we are automatically drawn to stories because we see ourselves reflected in them. Stories illustrate the point much better than facts or explanations can. Through stories, we share passions, fears, sadness, hardships, and joys. Stories are central to our communication.
We engage with others through stories. Storytelling is a lot more than just a recitation of facts and events. Stories convey meaning and purpose that help us understand ourselves better and find commonality with others.
Stories are all around us.
Every event can become a story. The reason we don’t see the story in everyday happening is because we don’t slow down to draw the lessons from our mishaps or admire the beauty of the opportunities that came our way. In today’s fast-paced environment, there is no time to reflect on our experiences and to build a narrative out of them.
There is the reason why children are so well engaged in storytelling. Kids can’t wait to hear a good story because they’re naturally curious and want to learn more about the world.
For centuries, stories have been used to pass on knowledge, and when important teachings are embedded in a story, we embrace that information uniquely because we tend to remember the underlying emotions in a story rather than the actual elements of that story.
As writers, we struggle to figure out what to write.
We start thinking that our job is to constantly bombard our readers with new information. We tend to forget that people don’t need more information. They don’t need to be taught either. They need to be touched in their hearts. They need stories. Stories of people, places and things.
Well-told stories are a gift from a writer to his readers. Here, is one from story from Sidney Sheldon’t memoir The Otherside of Me:
At the age of seventeen, working as a delivery boy at Afremow’s drugstore in Chicago was the perfect job, because it made it possible for me to steal enough sleeping pills to commit suicide. I was not certain exactly how many pills I would need, so I arbitrarily decided on twenty, and I was careful to pocket only a few at a time so as not to arouse the suspicion of our pharmacist. I had read the whiskey and sleeping pills were a deadly combination, and I intended to mix them, to make sure I would die.
It was Saturday – the Saturday I had been waiting for. My parents would be away for the weekend and my brother Richard was staying at a friend’s. Our apartment would be deserted, so there would be no one there to interfere with my plan.
At six o’clock, the pharmacist called out “Closing time.”
He had no idea how right he was. It was time to close out all the things that were wrong with my life. I knew I wasn’t just me. It was the whole country.
I read this story when I was seventeen years old. It has stayed with me for forty years. I can’t say the same about the articles I read both online and in print.
In today’s world with easy access to high-quality content, people don’t want you to give them more things to think about, more stuff to do, more clutter to fill their minds. There is an ocean of self-help articles. YouTube videos are screaming for attention with headlines such as – “You are missing out if you don’t do this routine.”
In such an environment, if you can tell a simple story in your authentic and honest voice, your writing will have much more impact. It will stay with more people, much longer than the screaming YouTube video or a mile-long self-help listicle.
When someone writes something that doesn’t tell me what to do but instead shares their honest perspective and personal story in an authentic voice they touch me.
They inspire me to become the kind of storyteller Naxon’s grandmother was, whose simple ‘stew-making’ story inspired Naxon to invent a simple device but which had a profound impact on the lives of millions.