We read a book to learn a story. We sing a song to tell a story. Everything that we feel, think, and observe in life are stories.
We convey stories through many different forms of medium and expression. More than just to release emotions, unfolding our stories can touch someone's heart and impact their lives for a greater good. Our words and voices can also influence the way people look at certain things. Use it on a larger scope, and we can even change the world if we want to.
Meet Devi Asmarani, a Jakarta-based storyteller and a co-founder of Magdalene, an online media platform that becomes a catalyst for change towards the empowerment of women.
For Devi, writing has been a way to speak out her opinions to the world. She conveys her thoughts and observations through writings as a medium that connects her to people. To fulfills her burning desire in writing, starting in 1996, she began to dive in with both feet in journalism.
In 2007, Devi experienced a massive burnout that made her re-questioning her job as a journalist. At the moment, she realised that her current work didn't give her meaning anymore. She wanted something more than just reporting and writing: she wanted to create change and impact on a larger scale. Then she decided to quit her job and took a break from journalism by teaching yoga and writing a few columns in various media platforms.
Later on, she's got a deep calling to go back into the field of journalism. Together with her friend, Hera, they wanted to create a platform that would make a difference in people's lives. Through a brainstorming process, they came up with an idea to make a women-focused publication that channels the voices of people who are not afraid to be different. They wanted to offer a progressive perspective beyond the typical gender and cultural confines. They aimed to engage, not alienate.
In 2013 Magdalene was launched as a pioneer in the feminist digital media space in Indonesia.
Ever since Magdalene was established, people have given various responses to it. While there were always those who saw it as an 'angry feminists' magazine, most felt deeply encouraged by the positivity that the magazine shared.
For Devi and Hera, Magdalene is their footprints to create impact. It was meant to hug and embrace all women, feminists, and change-makers by telling their stories to the world. For instance, there was a story published in 2018, about a woman who decided to take off her hijab. She had come up with the decision after a lengthy contemplation of her conflicting identity. She was pretty aware that the choice she had made would subject her to hostilities and discriminations, but the woman chose to keep moving forward and continue life as a person that she is today. Surprisingly, many of the readers felt moved by the story as they had experienced a similar struggle. Some of them also mentioned that they have been thinking to do the same, and felt even more empowered to do it. For most of them, the story had opened a door for a new possibility, which they thought wouldn't be possible before. It is a remarkable proof that every single story holds power through their words and emotions, causing a disruptive change for those who read it.
Now, hundreds of long-lasting impacts have been created by Magdalene through their stories and ideas.
How Can Story Become So Powerful?
"A story is powerful when it communicates a message," said Devi.
"For me, writing is simply communicating. Our skill of communicating would decide if the story would be personally moving and inspiring to others, or not at all. So, it is really a matter of using the right way to tell a story. The more honest and authentic you are with your stories, the more it is engaging to the readers. Knowing and understanding your audience is also the most important key to tell your stories," she mentioned.
As a writer, Devi stated that a story could be compelling when it holds its pure intention: to engage the readers and to make them understand the issue.
Looking back, Devi explained that most of us have grown up to understand the world around us through storytelling. We have been conditioned to react and respond to things based on the stories we were told. More often than not, stories move us to do or not do things.
"Never take the power of stories for granted, because we never realise how much of our life is shaped by the stories that we learned," she mentioned.
Tell Your Story in Your Own Way
There are always different ways to tell a story. Stories are not necessarily told solely through pen and paper. If you are a dancer, convey your story through the moves and the sway of your dance. If you are a singer, deliver your message through the lyrics and the melody of your song. It doesn't matter which form that you choose, what matters the most is how you stay true to yourself, your story, and your ideas.
When you tell a story, you ought to be consistent with the storyline you choose, or the message you want to deliver. More often than not, you may bump into a rough patch and rocky road, but you should never stop learning to improve your storytelling skills. You shouldn't wait until you become an excellent writer to tell a story. Start where you are right now, while keep on learning to be better with journaling exercise.
In our everyday life, we always make an impact on others through the smallest things we do, or the slightest things we say. Just like our words and actions, the stories that we tell will also create a change and impact in someone's life. Hence, it's in our call to choose whether we want to make a lifelong positive impact, or in reverse, a potentially negative one on others.