Matthew Dicks knows how to tell stories. He’s a 5-time Moth GrandSlam winner and he was interviewed on The Art of Manliness: “Podcast #462: How to Tell Better Stories”.
Ever since reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” (check out my notecards), I’ve been considering small things I can do daily (instead of medium things done every other day or large things done weekly).
What’s one daily habit Matthew Dicks has to build his storytelling muscle? (at 8:01):
All I do is at the end of every day, before I go to bed, I sit down and ask myself, “What was the thing that made this day different than any other?”
Everyone has stories. Something happened to you today that was different from yesterday. Start collecting them. Then you can look at the collection and really start seeing which things are story-worthy.
Where does he keep track of these daily moments?
I use a spreadsheet. I’ve got two columns in my spreadsheet. I’ve got the date on one side and then I stretch that second column all the way across the screen. And in there I write what my story is. So I can really write only two or three sentences a day about that moment.
That’s one constraint that he talks about in the podcast. Slowing down and summarizing something that happened to you so it fits in a few sentences takes a little bit of effort.
Another constraint he talks about is working with real life in the first place. He also writes novels so he also knows how to write entirely fictional stories. He looks at telling stories from real life as a puzzle. You can only work with things that actually happened, so you have to figure out how to organize the moments and cut parts out to make it an interesting story.
Why is it worth keeping a record of these (sometimes benign) moments?
We just have these moments where we have a beautiful, or a terrible, or a memorable interaction with another person. Or we see something and it suddenly changes our mind in some way. The problem is we just take these moments and throw them away like trash.
I’m going to start asking myself “What was the thing that made this day different than any other?”
My answer today:
- I got a hot coffee instead of iced coffee for the first time in a long time.
I’ve set the bar pretty low so I’m thinking something more interesting than that will happen by the end of today. And if not, that’s okay too.