Finding The Story


I have to find my way into every story I write. Sometimes it’s a story I’ve been writing for months, and sometimes it’s a brand-new story. It doesn’t matter. The process of finding is essentially the same. First, I have to forget. I have to forget about anything I thought was more important than the story. I have to forget about politics, about sports, about my career and money and approval and the future. I can think about all those things later if I want; they’ll never go away. But to really find the story, there can be no competition for my attention.

Once I have forgotten everything that isn’t my story, I must remember why I want to tell the story. Because I am alone, because there is no audience to entertain or inspire, because there is no living person with whom to seek connection, I must find my way back to the source of all connection. Since I spend most of my days relating to other people, it’s easy to mistake where that life-giving feeling of connection is drawn, to believe I am drinking from a pool filled entirely by the company I keep. Writing reminds me of the truth of it.

Every time I begin to find that story, every time I catch the first interesting glimpse of its tail, I grow up a little bit more. It doesn’t matter how gray my remaining hair is, I keep growing up whenever I stop looking to other people for what I need most. There is so much of my life that would be incomplete without other people, but none of those people can tell my story for me anymore than I can tell theirs for them.

Once I’ve caught the tail, once I’m interested in a story just because I want to learn where it’s taking me, writing, and life itself, seems so simple. Why did I ever make it so complicated, I wonder? I have everything I need. It’s all right there within me. Next time, I think, it’ll be easier. I’ll never again look for what I need where it isn’t. I’ll live forever in this complete and flourishing kingdom. In fact, I think as I finish my day’s work, I’ll go tell some people about the kingdom. Surely, they’d be interested.

And as I step away from the desk and begin looking for other people, I see that some of them are arguing about politics, and some of them are playing catch, and some are answering my emails and some are not, and some want to buy my books and some do not – and I quickly forget about that kingdom. The world of other people is like a playground, and I want to join the game. There will be time later to grow up some more, but for now I want to be a part of the messy, complicated, meandering, curious story we’re all telling together.

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