Embrace Simplicity

I heard an interview with a writer once, and in the process of describing his novel, the writer said, “Well, you know. Life is complicated.” To which I thought, “No, it’s not. But we can make it plenty complicated.” Life is really just this: Everything is as it should be; everything changes; you can do anything you want. Or to put it another way, reality is comprised of millions of jigsaw puzzle pieces that can fit together anyway you please. Left to its own devices the mind sees this enormous puzzle and wonders, “What is the correct arrangement?” After all, puzzles always have one solution. Yet there are as many correct arrangements as there are pieces in the puzzle.

Consider your dictionary. Here are all the pieces to the puzzle of whatever you are writing. Except for a few niggling rules of grammar, you are allowed to arrange the words however your want. What we call complexity is really just fantastic variety to allow for the unimaginable breath of possibility.

The writer’s job, like all artists, is to see through the complexity to the simplicity, never the other way around. It is very valuable to show the way in which life appears complex. In fact, this is often where stories begin, with characters trapped in a kind of mystery through which they must find their way to a resolution. But to leave your characters in a state of complexity, to leave them stunned by the web of life, is to leave the job undone.

Maturity is sometimes seen as a willingness to make peace with complexity. And yes, there is that moment in most people’s lives when they awaken to the incomprehensible vastness of all that could be. The simplicity comes in understanding that your life is elegantly limited by the boundaries of your unique desires. You don’t need to do everything, say everything, answer everything, write everything, and your answer is never the answer. In this way, it is actually our job to make the peace with the simplicity, while we enjoy the variety.

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