August 15, 2011
I recently sat down to write a story about an experience I was smack in the middle of. I was motivated by the idea that if I didn’t write about it as I was living it, the thoughts and emotions it was inspiring would become vague and blurry, and I would lose the opportunity to write a great story. With that goal in mind, I started pounding away at my keyboard, and before I knew an entire afternoon had passed and I’d filled fifteen pages. What began as a story about circumstances that were still unfolding evolved into a story about how the strange confluence of events that got the ball rolling years ago, a twist that caught me by complete surprise.
When I sit down to write, I usually do so with a specific topic in mind. What I don’t know is how (or if) I’ll be able to adequately and creatively express what I want to share about that topic. I have become quite comfortable with the notion that I’ll need to slog through some bad ideas before I find the real jewels, but I’m still figuring out how to give my stories as much leeway as possible to take me where they want to go. The day I decided it was time to unearth some of the emotions I was currently wrestling with, I somehow managed to get out of the way immediately, and the words poured out of me like never before.
In any area of life, the act of surrendering is usually what enables me to see the bigger picture and take a deep exhale. It is true in my relationships, when I’m submitting a book proposal, and when I am writing a story. In these moments – when I am able to let go of the reins – it is as if I am boarding an airplane bound for who knows where. Only after takeoff will I begin to get a sense for where I’m going, and only after having traversed some miles will I be able to land and see where I’ve ended up. My story is the pilot, and my work is to let it carry me.