The Art of Storytelling

Act 1, Scene 1

I was having writer’s block.

I have told myself a million stories about who I am, and what I stand for. But I was having writer’s block.

So, to get things moving I realized exactly what I had to do.

I told my husband and kids I loved them, I grabbed my coffee, and I found myself a quiet corner of the house to reflect.

I closed my eyes. I took some deep, cleansing breathes. And I allowed myself to relax into the realities of who I really am….

I am the author of my destiny.

I have been working with the idea that I am the author of my own destiny a lot lately. I have been grappling with the pros and cons of this idea, wondering about the multitude of experiences that have felt out of my control and considering how I could be the author if someone else is throwing new characters into my life. I have found it especially hard to image when the new characters who have appeared in my life are working with a different, less appealing script.

So is it true? Am I really the author of my destiny?

I surely wouldn’t write that!

I can’t imagine that I would write a story where my children lost their father. It’s been very difficult watching them grow up missing a man, the memory of whom is fading day-by-day because they were so young when he died. Just the other day Sofia (now age 10) came home, explaining that she had a rough day because she had chosen to do her “A Special Person in My Life Is…” assignment in class on her dad. Everything was going great, she explained, until the teacher asked her to draw a picture of her special person and Sofia could not remember what he looked like.

And just last week Danica (now age 7) I found Danica crying uncontrollably at daycare when I came to pick her up. They were playing with Lego and she had built a beautiful slide. When it was time to clean up, Danica began to feel anxious. She didn’t want to tear apart her wonderful creation. So the teacher pulled out a camera, assuring everyone that they could use the picture to re-build the slide the following day. That triggered in Danica a huge memory. “Mommy,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks, “I remembered when Daddy left and never came back home and that I can’t remember what he looks like without a picture!” My heart broke thinking that this was our story…

But if I am the master of the plot’s direction…

The greatest storytellers know that the excitement of the works they publish – the ones that take off and end up on Best Seller lists – are those that are the most complicated. The passages within the story that we remember most fondly  are the ones that have struck a nerve within our imaginations because the author has described for us the messiness of life and our life’s choices.

So maybe I was the author of my story, and I was writing the saddest film in town. That means that I focused all my attention on grappling with raising children whose lives were torn apart by the death of their leading actor. And as I authored chapter after chapter about our losses, our heartbreaks and our broken dreams, the universe supported me by providing an unending amount of plot twists that served to help deepen our loss and sadness.

… Maybe I can write a different story!

Or, maybe I was the author of my story, and I was aiming to write an adventure. That meant that when Michael, Sofia and Danica’s father, struggled with cancer, I worked diligently to get through each of the twists and turns that this story told. And when Michael died, I looked at our children and thought, “It’s the end of Act 1, but Act 2, 3 and 4 await!” And as we stumbled into Act 2, each of us grieving in our own ways, I looked down and found in my hands a new pencil. A pencil sharpened and ready to write whatever our hearts desired in our new adventure.

So I am the stories I tell myself!

And this insight alone is super empowering.