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Column: Creating memorable stories at Minnesota West

Through writing, we gain the satisfaction of fashioning something beautiful from the raw materials of life.

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Gillian Singler

WORTHINGTON — Storytelling is an innate part of the human experience. While most animals inherit knowledge, humans must discover it. We must tell and be told; we must listen and read to understand. Narratives are how we share and learn information. They are the fabric of human existence: comforting us, guiding us, teaching us. They help us understand the world around us and connect with each other. They help us to do our work.

Whether we’re a nurse composing the story of a patient’s medical history, a foreman reading how to safely operate the machines that make the products we depend on each day, a parent sharing with our children the stories of their ancestors, a police officer writing a report or the details of an investigation, an entrepreneur pitching an idea, an agricultural engineer sharing designs to improve farming, or a teacher constructing knowledge with students, we spend our lives spinning yarns.

Each letter is a raw fiber — discolored and impure — spun, drawn across the wheel and collected to become a single, long strand. Some of these strands are laid tight, warped along the frame and rod to be woven, some twisted together and textured.

Using the raw materials at hand — single moments that are felt, experienced, and shared — the fibers are dyed — sepia, alabaster, sage, coral, bronze, honey, obsidian — making each strand different from the last.

A knot is slipped, a needle threaded. Each colorful cord then carefully wrapped, pulled, stitched — spiraling, threading together, pulled firm at the seams. The sentences weave their way across the page, forming the fabric that will make the tapestry of the tale.

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We will choose to wear some of these tales for all to see; others, we will pack away delicately, lovingly — to be saved as legacies shared with only a few. These narratives help to explain our nature, a nature that initially appears as a fragmented mass, spools of contradictions, but when thread together thoughtfully and skillfully, become stories that inform and instruct.

Whether it’s learning to write using rhetorical modes of development or learning basic story-crafting techniques, through writing, we gain the satisfaction of fashioning something beautiful from the raw materials of life.

Whether it’s reading to learn lifetimes of wisdom and experience, to examine how stories have influenced culture and have shaped our modern identities, we gain the satisfaction of understanding the human experience.

Each life is a single anecdote in the narrative of human history. Stories are the inheritance we receive from our ancestors, that we pass on to future generations. Students who choose to continue their stories with the Minnesota West English Department learn the techniques to weave their best yarns and gain the skills to learn from the tapestries of others.

Gillian Singler is an English instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

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