The Blessing and Curse of the 11th Hour Spanner

Alina Siegfried
5 min readFeb 9, 2021
A double ended silver wrench that is curved in the middle, against a black backdrop
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

I was warned. Be crystal clear on your audience. I was absolutely, duly warned. In fact, I even warned myself. Show, don’t tell. Human hearts and minds are convinced by story, not heavy rational arguments laced with statistics, facts, and figures. Those things are important for policy design, but what makes individuals act is a compelling story.

Last month I had a pivotal conversation with a couple of people who I had engaged with to help me with getting my upcoming book out there. It was one of those conversations which goes totally completely in a different direction than you thought it would, and then two hours later, you wander dazed out of a cafe in Aro Valley, and everything has been turned upside down and you cannot unsee.

I had been on track to self-publish my first book on storytelling and narrative to support systems change in April this year, but that old 11th hour spanner in the works has now lodged itself firmly and I am back into editing mode. Let me explain.

What the wonderful, caring people I sat down with that fateful morning had to say hit at the core of a gut feeling that I’d had about the book for some time, that I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on. A feeling that in places that I got a bit too heady, too academic. The cognitive psychology of storytelling and behaviour change is fascinating stuff. So is the political theory and progressive campaigning tools of folks like George Lakoff and the good people at Common Cause Foundation. But what I gleaned out of the conversation, was that my current draft manuscript features a few instances where I have gone a little too deep, quite probably at the risk of losing people along the way. This would be totally appropriate if I was publishing a text book or a strict how-to manual on storytelling for change.

But since the beginning I have wanted this book to be an engaging story in its own right. To show, not to tell.

In many ways, it’s my story. It’s everything I’ve learned — both the easy way and the hard way — over the past 10 years or so in a career spanning non-profit environmental advocacy, political messaging, crowdfunding, software development, spoken word poetry, human-centric storytelling…

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Alina Siegfried

Storytelling | Narrative | Systems Change | Circular Economy | Spoken Word | Author of “A Future Untold” on story & narrative for change | www.afutureuntold.com