On Awesome Storytelling (Nearly) Unnoticed

Stories nearly untold - Fernando PessoaOnce upon a time…

Fernando Pessoa was born in Lisbon in 1988, moved to Durban at the age of 7 when his stepfather was made Portuguese consul, and moved back home in 1905 – where he wrote poems he thought weren’t up to much, contributed to a few literary reviews and mostly lived on the meager salary of a commercial translator.

And while he was known by a small number in Lisbon’s writing community and released one book of poems in 1934, few people bought a copy or even knew he existed. He died at just 47 years of age of cirrhosis of the liver.

…The end!

Perhaps you’re thinking: What a rubbish story Eamonn. I know it’s a bit sad but, seriously, why exactly are you telling me about a man who went unnoticed in life?

Well, that should have been the last anyone heard of Fernando, but it wasn’t!

Too Many Believe Their Stories Aren’t Good Enough or Interesting

Shortly after he died, someone cleaned out his few possessions and came across a large trunk. And inside there was over 25,000 manuscripts, scraps of paper and backs of envelopes – full of scribbled poems, essays, short stories, plays and more. None of these had been seen by another soul.

And it turned out that was to be the find of the century for Portuguese and world literature. And even now, 70 years after his death, his work is still being transcribed and shared. It’s like a treasure trove that keeps on giving and Fernando is now the pride of Lisbon – considered a genius and held in every bit as much esteem as a Samuel Becket or James Joyce. Here’s why.

He wrote under 75 pen-names and gave each of these entirely different personalities, views and voices. And each of his fictional authors is as brilliant as the next.

Today his words are known across the globe and if you happen to take a bike ride along the cycle path beside the Tagus river in Lisbon you’ll see hundreds of quotes from his 3 most celebrated made up authors. What a cool idea and way to remember someone with awesome stories worth the telling.

And that brings me to the reason I penned today’s blog:

Fernando was a shy man with incredible stories but he didn’t have the confidence to share them. In fact he said of his writing:

‘I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided’

Wow. Like many people he compared himself with others and didn’t share his voice for fear noone would want to hear him…

…And absent a stroke of luck, his stories would have gone to the grave with him. What a loss that would have been.

Here’s just a few of his thoughts I came across and liked in recent days:

‘We worship perfection because we can’t have it; if we had it, we would reject it. Perfection is inhuman because humanity is imperfect’

‘I always live in the present. The future I can’t know. The past I no longer have.’

‘Stones on the road? I save every one of them, and one day I’ll build a castle.’

Cool, aren’t they?

Don’t Fall Prey to Comparisons, Share Your Stories and Your Voice

But this post isn’t really about literary giants nearly unfound. It’s about how often I come across folks with incredible stories but who are reluctant to share them. And if that sounds like you, here’s the message I’d like to give you:

Your stories and voice are precious and deserve to be shared and heard. And there is no better means of sharing ideas and insights that inspire than through your stories. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.

If you’d like help to shape and share stories to create visibility for you, your ideas or your business, contact me at eobrien@thersc.ie – I’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Photo credit: Perdo Ribeiro Simoes













About Eamonn O'Brien

Public speaking master, Eamonn O'Brien is the founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club.