A Simple Guy

When I was a boy, I was accused once or twice of having too simplistic a view of life. This stung. It seemed my simplicity would deprive me of whole layers of life available to complex thinkers. And so, being fiercely competitive and pathologically goal oriented, I set out to complicate myself and the stories I was going to tell. Nothing could be easier, really. Fear, for instance, complicates things immediately. Try to argue with your fears and you find yourself wrestling with an octopus that grows a new tentacle for every rational escape route you discover. Eventually, your octopus has hundreds of arms and is very complicated indeed as life becomes a great ball of yarn you were commanded at birth to untangle.

In this same way, I often resisted letting my stories be about one thing. If I did this, they would be simple and predictable and boring. What I have found, however, is that by allowing the stories to be about one thing—one theme, one conflict, one resolution—my stories are actually less predictable.  Why?  Because I have more command over the material. When I have tried to do too much, the stories simply haven’t made emotional sense. They weren’t complicated, they were just jumbled.

I still have to remind myself to keep my stories simple, and as always it is a matter of trust. When I’m searching for the story, and I’m in that murky place where the pieces haven’t lined up, the temptation is to keep throwing more ingredients into the pot hoping that by having enough it will add up to a story. But every good conflict has within it a satisfying resolution if you allow yourself to find it. In the end, I must return to the simple but interesting idea that drew me to a story, and trust that within it is all that this story needs.

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