Writing Your Own Life’s Story

Citi Financial credit card has a commercial about how they will help you write an amazing story into your life. Every time I see that commercial, I think, “but I want to write my own amazing life!”. I’m a writer, why does someone else need to write anything for me?

Today that niggling little thought suddenly struck home in full force. I get to write my own story. Not just my own short stories and books, but I can write my own life as I want it to be.

Think about it. As writers, we show human beings in their best and worst moments. We’re masters of plotting out events before they happen, of seeing the unique and special and weird bits of life that most people don’t even consider. A foggy and dead orchard may be just a foggy, dead orchard to the majority of folks. I look at it and wonder why there is an abandoned orchard in the middle of the Oregon evergreen forest. I imagine all sorts of things that could have happened there, from the mundane to the grandiose and magical. (This is an actual orchard by the way, fronting on some family property. It’s a very surreal place)

We make it our business to understand people, to plot cause and effect, and to study the underpinnings and meanings of life. Now, obviously, not every writer gets this obsessed with writing, nor with the psychological trappings of writing. I’ll admit to being a little too interested in the mechanics of things, some of my earliest memories are sitting in a classroom while my grandmother finished her master’s degree in psychology, and I’ve been steeped in the voodoo of the human mind and the madness of religion for as long as I can remember.

Some of my coworkers see me as a bit of an oddity now, since I told them that I was taking three years out of college to write and do a little exploring. They are even more concerned when I outline the degrees I want, the amount of schooling I WANT to do, and the work I ENJOY. Aren’t people trying to figure out ways to do less work and schooling? And here I’m talking about working multiple jobs, putting aside relationships and hobbies, and spending half of my life in school. Why?

Simple. I want to write my own story. The heroes of stories probably don’t think that their surroundings are all that unique. Elrond probably never gave a second thought to the power of the Elves, it was his life. Lincoln had an extraordinary life, but it was so ordinary in setting as to be almost depressing. It was the events of that life that made it spectacular.

We can let ourselves be swept along by life, rudderless and without plan or destination. We can struggle against everything that life throws at us, catching at branches and rocks, determined to buck the trend and be our own person.

Or, we can pick up the pen and gently steer ourselves through life, making little notations here and there, taking a risk that has no apparent reward, making a leap of faith for something we’ve always wanted, and understanding that everything has its effect.

An extraordinary life is in the details, the same as an extraordinary story. So next time you find yourself feeling out of control, sit back and listen to a song that evokes some dream, or some memory. Give yourself grounding points, things to hold onto when the currents get a little rough. Build a home for yourself, in your own head, populated with the hopes and plans of a lifetime, because that’s the one thing no one can ever change or take away without your permission. Find joy in the moment, as a fellow author puts it, under your bum right now. Live for the moment, and plan for eternity.

Write your own name, your own story, your own history. It’s a spectacular life out there, don’t miss it waiting for someone else to write a best-selling novel for you, because no one can capture your voice better than you yourself.

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