Monday, June 21, 2010

Your Life As A Story

Everything is a mirror when you are a writer. 

A flower is a mirror ... a lone tree is a mirror ...
a mountain is a mirror ... a sunset is a mirror ...
a waterfall is a mirror.

Raging fire, shattered glass,
torn skin, undeserved rejection ... all mirrors.

When you are a writer mirrors are everywhere.  

Even a blank piece of paper, or a glaring
computer screen, is a mirror.

I started to think about life differently, about five years ago, 
when I took playwriting courses in college. 

There is so much to learn about play (story) writing.
There are antagonists, and protagonists.
There are story turns, and transitional dialogues.
I learned about character development,
and how conflicts propel the plot/story forward.

I learned about inciting incidents, and character transformation,
and what it took to make a story truly meaningful.

The whole playwriting process is, quite literally,
a science ... a skill.
I started realizing that life ... in a sense ... 
is a story. 

And I also started realizing that
the elements that made a story
were the same elements that
would make a life

Here recently
I have felt compelled to begin "writing my story"
for my girls.

The desire is there.
The strong urge is there. 
But it is a difficult task to start. 

Writer's block is just one obstacle. 

So I resort to the most basic of proven, timeless formulas
to help me get started with the writing of my story: 

A story
is a character
who wants something,
and overcomes conflict
to get it.

This most basic formula sounds so simple, but it isn't, really ...
especially when applied to real life.
The first forty chapters of my life have been recorded,
and are just waiting to be written down.
I have dynamic characters, conflicts and obstacles,
all kinds of inciting incidents, every kind of antagonist
you can think of ... and even a delightfully profound
protagonist (that would be, uh, me.)

How much should I share with them ...
how much should I tell? 
Part of me wants it to be an easy story.   
But nobody really appreciates, or learns from,
or remembers, the easy stories. 
If you think about the stories you like most,
and the ones you remember the most,
they probably have lots of conflict. 
And the characters probably faced their greatest
challenges, and fears, with courage. 
There was probably death at stake, too ...
actual death, or inner death.
Although I think most of us know great stories are
told in conflict ... I also think most of us are unwilling
to embrace (truly embrace) the conflicts in our own lives.
So far I don't think I have told a good story
with my life.

I have colleagues and friends and professors who would say
I tell wonderful stories ... beyond good, actually.

To them I would say, Thank you. 
I may tell good stories, but I don't live good stories.

I have spent a few very uncomfortable years
(after my playwriting courses .. when the seed was planted)
living with the awareness that I haven't lived a good story.

But I know what to do.  I am a storyteller.  A writer. 
A creator of sorts. 

Each day of my life is a blank page,
and all I need to do is start writing on it.

And I also know something else.

Good stories don't just happen by accident.
They are intentional.
They are planned.
There is a purpose in every scene.
There is a purpose in every line of dialogue.

There is a purpose for every character's entrance ...
and exit.

As I said, the first forty years of my story is already outlined
for me ... just waiting for me to skillfully construct it into
an artful form that flows within proven, timeless elements. 
And so now my newest, most strenuous, project to tackle
is this: 

To plan a good story for the remainder of my life, 
and to live that plan intentionally.

The remainder of my life's story will not be an accident.

What is your story, and
how is it being written?


  1. Your so Toltec!! Recapitulation can be life changing...

  2. I'm not so Toltec, at all, Frann!

    I had to review, and recapitulate, the precise meaning of the word before I could respond!!

    But thank you ... made me giggle and grin.

    I think I'll probably share more on this subject because it is much on my mind.

  3. Hey, Mama! I posted an update on my blog and popped over to yours to find that it's about writing. Glorious! Your passage is beautiful. I think that my story is being written by living one day at a time. Most days, I follow a loose plan. Some days, I crash and burn, but it is my story nonetheless. Thank you for a thought provoking post.

  4. You're welcome, Ginger. And thank you, too.

    I wish I could take credit for the thought-provoking topic ... but a much greater muse (power) is at work here. It's been a nagging presence in the back of my mind for a while now.


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