Interview with Skye Jethani: Why Story Matters

Today, I have the privilege of interviewing Skye Jethani, author of The Divine Commodity. Skye will be presenting at STORY, a conference for creatives that I’m attending next month. To find out more about how you can win a FREE ticket to STORY, scroll to the bottom of this interview.

Story Conference

What is your best personal definition of a story?

Human beings are wired to reject randomness. We refuse to believe that scenes or events are disconnected and the result of chaos.

A story is a construct of the human imagination that weaves together events so that they have meaning and a direction; a purpose. Without stories we would succumb to the despair of a random cosmos without meaning.

Skye JethaniWhat is one way you have found to grow or engage your imagination?

It sounds rudimentary, but reading is still the best way. I try to read far outside my world of church/ministry/faith. I like to read history, science, biography, and fiction.

In a culture quickly losing the discipline of reading in favor of short glimpses at screens, we are seeing Water Brueggemann’s prophecy come true: we are becoming a people capable of implementing almost anything and imagining almost nothing.

In your experience what is the best nontraditional form or storytelling you have seen, heard, or experienced?

I suppose that hinges on what you mean by “nontraditional.” Frankly, I sometimes feel that all of our efforts to be innovative actually diminish our ability to tell good stories. (George Lucas is exhibit A.)

The medium should always add to or support, and never take away from, the message. Too often these days the medium and message conflict resulting in people remembering the delivery device and totally forgetting the message. The best storytellers are the ones who keep character development and human emotion central.

Take the opening sequence from the Pixar film Up! No dialogue. No distracting special effects. Just the story of a boy and girl who meet, marry, and grow old. Yet half the audience is in tears after 4 minutes.

The most potent storytelling communicates with clarity and precision and with an economy of devices.

If you could encourage a creative person with one tip on being imaginative what would you tell them?

Close your mouth. Open your eyes. Silence is the prerequisite to imagination. We must be present and observant to the world around us, the world within us, and the movements of God in both.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but many of the most imaginative people consume the least or with the most discretion. Those who are incessantly listing to an iPod, surfing the web, and in a constant state of external mental stimulation cannot be imaginative. They can only consume; they cannot create.

What is one thing you are excited about sharing with the tribes attending STORY 2011?

God is not a means to an end. He is the end.


STORY is a conference for the creative class. The theme for 2011 is IMAGINE NATION which speaks to the power of spiritual imagination.

Win a free ticket!

To enter to win a free ticket to this year’s conference, you must do the following:

  1. Answer the question below in the comments.
  2. Tweet this article or share it on Facebook. Here’s an example: Find out how you can win a free ticket to #STORY11 here:
  3. Be available to be in Chicago during the conference. No winning this for a friend. If you can’t be there, I will pick the next person eligible (the winner will be randomly selected).

If you don’t win, I still hope to see you there. You can find out more at the STORY event page.

What would an entire country of imagination look like to you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

** Congrats to Allison Rivers for winning the free ticket! **