The Inner Journey


You’re sitting in a crowded movie theater and the lights go dark and the film begins. Everyone in the theater is seeing the same screen, hearing the same music, watching the same characters struggle and rejoice. On this evening, you’re loving the film. As the hero flees the villain, falls in love, finds a treasure, rights a wrong and then returns home, you feel as if you’re on a kind of amusement park ride, the story taking you up and down, bringing you in and out fear and desire and laughter.

It’s the kind of ride you would happily board again, because when the credits roll and the crowd filters out onto the street you feel as if something in you has changed slightly. Yet whereas an actual amusement park ride returns the riders to the exact same spot, in going on this hero’s journey, you feel as if you too returned to a home you are now seeing differently.

But as you reach your car and are fishing for your keys, you overhear a couple grousing as they get into their car. “I got bored halfway through,” says the man. “It needed, like, another fight or something.”

“I know!” says the woman. “Plus there was too much dialogue. Blah, blah, blah. It’s like they didn’t have a story so they just let the characters talk and talk.”

You duck into your car and close the door. It’s like they saw a different movie, only theirs is starting to infect yours. You’re starting to wonder if there was too much dialogue. Plus, you’re a writer. As you drive home, you find yourself fretting about the uncertain relationship between artist and audience. In the theater, it had felt like the movie happened to you. You had simply been caught irresistibly in its current and whipped along. But if this were so, everyone would have been caught in that current, and that couple was not.

There are times as a writer where you wish you could tell a story in a such a way that the reader, any reader, would have no choice in whether they go for your ride. As soon as they lay their eyes on the first word, they’re off. But the reader has so much to say about that ride, about whether or not they go on it, and how fast it is, and where it takes them. Because in the end, you had felt that movie, that story, in you. What you felt wasn’t actually on the screen. In truth, the entire movie was actually being told in your imagination.

You’re okay with this, you realize as you return home. You saw that movie where you see the stories you tell, that inner, sovereign sanctum where all journeys begin and end.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.