Joining The Circus

As a storyteller, I have to love problems. When I wrote fiction, as soon as I found a character I would immediately go looking for that character’s problem, what they feared or what they craved but lacked. The same is true now that I tell stories about my own life. When looking for a story I usually begin with a problem: a moment where I’m unhappy, or frustrated, or scared, or angry. This is the conflict, and without the conflict there is no resolution, no movement, no learning. In fact, I’ve been happily telling stories about my own life for so long – longer, indeed, than I’ve been doing so professionally – that I have come to view my life as both an experience I’m having, as well as an endless source of material. Which is to say, the storyteller is on a constant lookout for problems whereas the guy who just exists would very much like to live problem-free. In general, the storyteller rules the day. Not only does he earn our keep, but he’s also a lot of fun to be around. He’s entertaining, and interested, and wants to share with others.

But sometimes at the end of the day, when I’m really done telling stories, I become suspicious of my relationship to problems. They are so important and interesting to me that I wonder if maybe I wouldn’t know who I am without them. Am I inventing them secretly, subconsciously, to give my life its narrative shape, its conflict and resolution? If my problems all ended, my story would be over.

As I said, these thoughts usually come to me at the end of the day. I arrange my life so that the last hours of the evening are spent doing nothing in particular. I like a good night’s sleep, which is easiest to find if I pull my attention from the hurly-burly circus of life. I have to sort of forget that I care about all that I’m sure is so important so that I can slip into the world of dreams, a world apart and yet informed by that very circus. It’s like writing itself. I move my attention to a world made of nothing but stories, nothing but conflict and resolutions, and when I awaken I feel refreshed and ready once again to join the circus.

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


Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence. You can find William at:

Follow wdbk on Twitter