What We Storytellers Do

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“George Banks will be honored.

George Banks will be redeemed.

George Banks and all he stands for will be saved —

Maybe not in life, but in imagination.

Because that’s what we storytellers do:

We restore order with imagination.

We instill hope, again and again and again.”


In the memorable film, Saving Mr. Banks, the character of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has just shared a series of painful memories to help author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) understand that producing a film version of her novel Mary Poppins (borne of her own painful family memories) would be meaningful not only to him, and to audiences everywhere — but also to her.

Walt Disney concludes his moving monologue with the lines above. I had to replay it several times when I first saw it. It is a remarkable moment in the film and a moment that likely resonates with anyone, but particularly with those of us who consider ourselves writers or artists.

Mary Poppins was one of the most meaningful movies of my own childhood. In our earlier years, my Dad pointed out to us — with heaviness in his own voice as a burdened working father — how the film is truly about the father, Mr. Banks, and his transformation in the face of pressures and misguided priorities — confirmed by the backstory of Saving Mr. Banks. This made watching the new film even more powerful for me personally, because it of course reminded me of my own father and the challenges he faced.

It also reminded me about my purpose as a writer: what we storytellers do, as Disney says.

What We Storytellers Do:

  • We write about redemptive situations, which often seem irredeemable or impossible in life.
  • We stand up for what matters most to us.
  • We restore not only “order” but hope, using imagination to magnify human realities, so that we can see and extract truths even more clearly.
  • We keep at it — “again and again and again,” no matter what it takes.

But more than anything, this film showed me…Why.

Why We Storytellers Do What We Do:

  • We write to heal. We write to work through our deepest needs, our closest relationships and the life questions weighing on us most. Through our writing we can get closer to God, to each other, and to a more complete understanding of the life and circumstances we have, in the bigger picture.

Seeing P.L. Travers so vulnerably coming to terms with her own past, in the course of Saving Mr. Banks, confirms that ultimately we’re not just writing to inform, entertain or inspire audiences — we’re writing for ourselves as well, for our own growth, healing and survival.

That’s why writers have to do what they do — they literally can’t live without it.



Saving Mr. Banks on IMDB click here

2 thoughts on “What We Storytellers Do

  1. Beautiful, Lisa. The “What and Why We Storytellers Do….” sections should be read every morning by every writer, poet, composer, and dreamer.”

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