Joining my first session with Olaf was an experience I did not expect.
My name is Tekel, I’ve worked for varied companies supporting their technological needs for more than 25 years. I’m pretty much people’s human interface with tech. I have written stories before and throughout my tech career, but it had been a while since I’d looked at those words. About 15 years or so. I let my passion fall by the wayside for a long time. I joined one of Olaf’s sessions to get back into the craft of writing. I wanted to make improvements and complete writing projects I started way back.
Before joining the Zoom meeting, I did not see an agenda or an overview. I am flying blind, I thought, but let’s roll with it.
As we started, there were introductions which gave all participants a chance to provide an understanding of who they were and what they came to work on in order to move their projects forward. There were people from different time zones and countries making this quite unique. Oh, and the process of introducing ourselves was actually an exercise itself. It was like a warm up to practice active listening and ensure the session provided learning experiences for everyone. I found we did a lot of active listening and participation when others were the focus of a particular exercise throughout the session.
After introductions, Olaf asked us to talk about our work in the form of a logline. A what? Yeah, I didn’t get it and I didn’t know how to do one. Then Olaf picked me to go first. Talk about a “Deer in headlights” moment. I did not expect to be up first. I had expected I could use someone else’s example to form my own response.
Did I chicken out? I’ll be honest, yes. At first. But then Olaf shared a little more of what he was looking for. With calm and patience, Olaf asked me to give the group a quick idea of what my story was about. He encouraged me to take a shot at the task. I closed my eyes, slowed down my thoughts, and was able to deliver a short couple of sentences about my story. I was on cloud nine. Others understood what I expressed and liked what they heard. I nailed it. That was a very positive moment for me, one of many during that first Saturday session with Olaf and the group.
After that exercise, we broke up into smaller groups and I was paired with another participant, Ralston. Olaf said I needed to work on refining my logline. I wasn’t discouraged by that at all. It was my first attempt and I gave a really good delivery. This was about spending time with a partner to make it even better. Or so I thought.
I found myself happy, exhausted, and excited. Excited about finding other people who are willing to share and learn while in practice of moving their writing projects forward.
I got the impression that Ralstan had been with Olaf and the group for more than one or two sessions. In fact, he shared that it was more like 14. In our breakout room, Ralston gave me a better understanding of loglines. In filmmaking, a logline is a quick and intriguing summary of your film. Just one or two sentences to share the premise and feel of the story. Ralston asked if I remembered what I delivered in the main room. Ah, sorry, no. I was on that natural high. We laughed and Ralston said that he was intrigued by what I shared. He thought the concept was unique and full of story opportunities. Note to self: bring a recorder to record the words that are coming out of my mouth.
As we talked in our breakout room, Ralston asked questions about my story and its characters with genuine curiosity, interest, and compassion. There was no judgement, just a dive into the world of my story.
Honestly, for one reason or another over the years, I’ve rarely shared my stories with others. Yet here I was going down the rabbit hole of my most complete story with someone I first met thirty minutes before. Also, if the questions Ralston was asking were asked of me 15 years ago, I would not have been able to respond with the confidence I now had in some of my characters and the premise of the story.
Our conversation went on for longer than the 20 minutes we’d agreed to – an hour or so. Olaf checked in on us a couple of times, but the one-on-one interaction with Ralston was great. Questions led to clarity and clarity to ideas. And all the while, Ralston took notes. What??? Yes! He shared them with me in a whiteboard app called Mural before the end of the day. Did I get Ralston’s contact information before the session was over so that we could continue this one-on-one? Yes. Yes I did.
The two of us were finally coaxed out of our breakout room and back into the main room to join the rest of the group. While waiting for Olaf and the others to return from their breakout rooms, Ralston and I continued to get to know one another. It was very natural, unforced, and really nice to have a warm exchange with a fellow creator.
With everyone back together again, group members began sharing what they had worked on. So much progress. No had goofed off. We were all really working.
Two of the participants each shared their progress on fantastic short stories. Actively listening to them, I could see the pictures and actions they painted with their words. Wait, that was an exercise? It felt like so much more. What and how they delivered their stories was really cool.
Olaf has created a space for me to connect with other writers.
We also listened to an opening scene from another newcomer while Olaf coached. He shared a tool to help the writer pace their scene in a way that allowed them to step us through this part of the story. We each took turns sharing the impressions the scene and experience gave us. No inactive listeners in this group.
As I write this, I can only distantly remember all of the great stories that were shared in my first Saturday session with Olaf. Not word for word, but from the images that were left with me after each person shared their creations.
The two hours I planned for that Saturday afternoon turned into four. I found myself happy, exhausted, and excited. Excited about finding other people who are willing to share and learn while in practice of moving their writing projects forward. Happy to openly share one of my creations and listen to the creations of others. Exhausted, because I haven’t had so much fun from mental stimulation like this in a long time.
In these filmmaking sessions, Olaf has created a space for me to connect with other writers. A place for people who are passionate about their art and moving it forward. Life tends to get in the way of the stories that live within us. We tend to get in the way of letting those stories out for others to experience. But, if you have a story, or a concept – short or long – and you're looking for a safe space to learn and share, I strongly recommend joining this community of storytellers on Saturdays. Going forward, part of my weekends will be spent in Olaf’s sessions, learning and giving back to the group wherever I can. I hope to see you there.