Where Do Stories Come From?

Dr. Steven Shepard

I’m often asked where my stories come from. I do have a lot of them, and I add new ones all the time. The truth is that I’ve never really stopped to think about the answer to that question. I’m curious by nature, so if I get the impression that someone might be interesting to have a conversation with, I engage. If I see something happening that impresses me, or someone doing something that intrigues me, I go over to learn more. 

 When I teach writing or photography workshops, there’s one mantra that the participants hear me chant over and over again: There’s a difference between looking and seeing, andbetween hearing and listening.Everyone hears, but relatively few of us actually listen. And everyone looks, but relatively few of us actually see. 

 Over the years I’ve forced myself to listen, and I’ve forced myself to see. It hasn’t been easy; I still find myself tuning out sometimes, thinking about what great things I’m going to do with this amazing interview when I get back to the office, but realizing at the same time that I have missed what the person said for the last 90 seconds. 

 Stories are a gift. When someone agrees to tell you theirs, take it for what it is: A gift of the highest order. When a person agrees to tell you their story, they are sharing something important, so be honored, and listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and every story is a good one. The trick is getting them to tell it. 

 But my stories don’t just come from conversations with others. Some of them are pushed to me via email. Here are my favorites. I’m not going to describe them, because they’re well-described at their respective Web sites, and besides, the short trip over to visit them will do you good (remember—that’s what curiosity is about). 




And then there are the Podcasts I listen to. Here are the ones that I go back to, week after week, because they yield stories worth remembering and sharing.

99% Invisible

Aaron Menke’s Cabinet of Curiosities

BBC Earth

Costing the Earth


Curiosity Daily

Damn Interesting

How Sound

Levar Burton Reads


Nature Guys


Radio Atlantic



Science Rules (Bill Nye)

Anthropocene Reviewed

The Kicker (Columbia Journalism Review)

If you’re looking for a specific topic and you don’t find it here, let me know—chances are I know where to find it. And remember—the Natural Curiosity Project, my own regular program, has some great content as well!

Until next time—thanks for dropping by. And hey, if you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the Natural Curiosity Project Podcast, where you’ll find other stories designed to intrigue and educate. You can find a link to it here.