Good stories have ups and downs. The ones that stay with you usually include some triumph over adversity. It’s never a straight line to the end and that’s what makes it interesting. It’s what makes us put down our phones and pay attention, at least the good stories do.
Yet when it comes to real life, I don’t think I’m in a minority when I say I do not respond well to the obstacles along the way. I like when it’s easy and simple. As someone who hasn’t led a particularly easy or simple life, I appreciate it that much more.
Which is what makes choosing life as a storyteller a bit at odds with how I generally prefer things to be (settled and calm). I received three rejections of my manuscript in the past week. Because even when you write something really good—which I think I have—and interesting—which I believe my story is—it still may not have an easy time of it in the world of publishing which is the natural next step out of writing a book you want to share with the world beyond your family and friends. What makes it more frustrating is that I’m at the agent stage—getting someone interested enough to represent my novel to publishers. Sigh; It’s got a long way to go, which I knew going in.
But I was lucky enough last week to sit down with another writer who has written a novel I found absolutely compelling. We bonded over the struggle and string of rejections for myriad reasons that is the early stages of attempting to get a novel published. It reminded me that I’m not alone in it and that yes I can do hard things like take the rejection, accept it and keep pushing in new directions, even when it’s frustrating.
And in moments of reflection, when some of the frustration has passed, I’m also reminded of some of the challenges the main character in my novel moves through (the title of the novel is For as Long As We Can Endure so I’m sure you can just imagine) and what it takes for her to keep going. The thing is, what makes her story interesting is the effort to find a path forward despite the obstacles. It’s that want, because, but cycle of a compelling narrative.
I guess what I’m saying is that while I’d like for it to be easier, I know the end and the path itself are much more interesting for the challenges, obstacles, ups and down. The tension of stories is also the thing of life. It’s what makes them and it so special.
If the stories you’re creating and sharing are a straight line to the end from the beginning, pause and see if there’s a way to complicate things just a little, because that’s when things get interesting. Don’t do it to your life, the universe has got you covered on that, but if your life is the story you’re trying to share, perhaps delve into those moments of challenge and see how they shifted your path forward. That’s where the good stuff lives—that is the stuff of epic stories.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of tension in life and if it’s worth it for you. Sometimes it’s a lesson, sometimes it’s a new way of looking at the world, and sometimes it just sucks and moving through it is the thing. Send me a note or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
A Story Well Told
I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge fan of action movies. I’ll take them in any shape, form, and size. But I especially love an action movie that does something a little different. Over the weekend I watched A Quiet Place Part II. I had to share because it is so different from action/thriller films I’ve seen of late. I’d encourage you to watch the original first because it’s the continuation of the story in the story in the second one that makes the two of them so interesting. John Krasinsky, the film’s director, is taking his time with telling this story and he does the same in the movie itself. It’s all sound and pacing. He tells a story with very little dialogue and kept me in it from the beginning (I put my phone down, folks). Each film is a complete story, yet there is also a build between them. It’s just a really different way to tell a story and it stayed with me after I turned off the television. I will be there for Part III if the powers that be let him make it. If you check it out, let me know your thoughts, especially if it tickles your brain the way it did mine.
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Have a question? Something you’d like me to cover in a future letter—an element of your storytelling you may be struggling with? Just ask. Leave a comment below. I’m here to help.
Thanks for reading and I’ll “see” you next week. Whatever the world may bring, there will always be important stories that need you to tell them. I’ll be here to help.