We live in a world of abundant, and volatile, information. Schrijfkracht, Dutch for “writing power”, combines research with integrity and storytelling with passion, to connect head, heart and gut.
I’m Paulien Bakker, founder of Schrijfkracht. I studied journalism and psychology and specialized in cultural differences, human motives and storytelling.
Before I could write, I would make my grandmother, my parents and my brother sit in front of me while I delivered a sermon. I had things I wanted to tell – although the collection bag was also a good incentive. To everyone’s relief, I took to the typewriter not so long after.
I went on to study journalism and later on psychology. Then I joined the editing team of IntermediarPW magazine. After a five year run, I felt I had a solid foundation and became a freelance journalist. I haven’t stopped writing for newspapers and magazines in the Netherlands and abroad since then. My satisfied and returning customers include de Volkskrant, Vrij Nederland, Flow Magazine, Narratively, and Al Jazeera English. I also worked as Editor-in-Chief and developer of magazines such as Talent, Werf&, Erik and Magazine Narrative Journalism.
Passion for other cultures
In my twenties I travelled around four continents practicing martial arts: in The Bronx (New York), India, Mali and my own country, the Netherlands. Years later, I came across an orphanage during a trip to Rwanda. Its director shared how, when he was only 12, he was herded into an overcrowded church. He managed to escape, just moments before everyone inside was being slain. I still get the goose bumps when I think of that moment. And listening to his experience made me realize that what I needed to do was listen to those cathartic experiences and re-tell them.
Shortly after, I went to Iraq, a country where beautiful stories were free for the taking. And, as social media started to take over the world, I began to notice too that our ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes was increasingly put to the test. So I had to find a way, a vehicle: enter storytelling.
I got to meet storytelling journalists from all over the world, and learn how they used audio, video, multimedia and text to tell their beautiful stories.
Storytelling as my tool of choice
Storytelling is a way of structuring information and works with almost all kinds of information, especially when you want others to relate to the experience. Between 2013 and 2018, while director of the Initiative for Narrative Journalism in the Netherlands, I organized its annual conference True Story, with more than 300 colleagues coming to experience the power of stories. For me, this event was a candy shop. I got to meet storytelling journalists from all over the world, and learn how they used audio, video, multimedia and text to tell their beautiful stories. More recently, I have also used storytelling for film, social media campaigns and exhibitions. In addition, I assist photographers and writers to find the emotional heart of their story.
In recent years I have worked on several cross-media projects: Daily life Baghdad (Iraq; with photographer Marieke van der Velden), Country without Orphans (Rwanda; with filmmaker Anisleidy Martínez and photographer Anaïs López) and I want to break free (Albania; with photographer Bernadet Prins). I have also published two books: A Romantic People, about the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk and What comes after a mistake…remains a mistake, about an Iraqi family where one of their own children radicalizes (both came out in Dutch).
Nowadays I provide writing guidance to other creators (especially photographers and writers). I coach them in finding the emotional heart of their story. Especially if you have been working on a project for some time, chances are that you have been drowning in your material. By going back to the emotional heart of the project, you as a maker regain direction. And the great thing is: what is close to the heart is actually always meaningful.
Here you can read what others have said about me.