I’m a writer, a creative professional of sorts. And stories, by their very nature are slippery and easily changeable, especially in the early drafts when you’re trying to nail this nebulous thing of yours down on paper. Maybe it’s going to be good, maybe it’s going to be the worst thing you’ve ever written. But the point is that you can’t actually know until you sit down to write it.
It’s the adventure and the terror of writing – to know where you’re going, with singular focus and determination, but be flexible about getting there. The road may lead away from where you originally thought it might go. And you just follow along.
Yeah, I know that totally sounds like I’m saying Go right. And left at the same time.
Welcome to humanity.
But… I thought I’d share wise words from two very different sources and see what you think:
”Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is.”
But, oh Lord, we pay the price
With the spin of the wheel with the roll of the dice
Ah yeah, you pay your fare
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
– George Harrison
Life. Stories. It’s all the same thing, really.
If you don’t have a really solid core, you’re going to get swamped by life and immediately overwhelmed. And then your life is going to be a giant mess of too many choices and not nearly enough direction or action. The world’s full of a million choices a day. Regular Coca-Cola? Diet? Cherry Coke Zero? (Death soda, just my thoughts.) What’s my major going to be? Which job to take? Grad school? Get married? Where should we live? How many kids? What’s my career going to look like? What should I have for dinner?
What’s going to be important for me?
It’s kind of ridiculous that we live in a world where the sheer number of choices could doom us to immobility if we let them. I’ve definitely been there before.
But you know what? Writing brings the exact same problem to light.
Late last year, I wrote a feature script (L’Enchanteur! You know you’re interested!) And I thought it was going to be a certain kind of story. A boy meets girl and they fall in love sort of story. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I had to realize – Maybe that girl isn’t going to fall in love with that boy. Maybe he’s going to make stupid decisions or she’s going to meet someone else. And, even though it felt like cutting off my own arm, I had to let go of where I thought the story was going to go.
But in that case, the point I was trying to get across wasn’t revealed through the exact storyline I was telling. I was writing a vast world that could get boiled down to a single sentence – True sacrificial love brings life. That idea never wavered. But maybe my girl didn’t end up with the boy. Maybe the true story came when the boy chooses to go a different way.
I never would have written it like that in a million years. But there it was. I went left and right at the same time.
But if I would have lost that core idea – Sacrificial love brings life – I would have lost my story completely. It would have turned into something else I didn’t intend to write – and not in a good way. The heart and passion behind the story would have faltered and fallen apart in that ugly way that haunts the dreams of storytellers.
It would have become a lie.
Life is kind of like that.
People look at me like I’m a bit crazy. You work how many hours a day??? You do what for a living? I’ve made a lot of life decisions that don’t always make a lot of sense from the outset. I’ve gone on wild adventures in my career – in traveling – with friends. (My friends are my heroes, by the way!) I’ve interviewed for jobs and started them the next day. Right now I’m at the beginning of a show – so I know what my daily life will look like through September. But beyond that? It’s a huge mystery. To someone else – my life could look like the most unplanned, crazy thing anyone could possibly do. (And there’s a very strong argument to be made that my life is exactly that.)
But at the end of the day, every choice I make comes out of an unshakeable core place:
I love Luke. I am created to tell stories. I am created to sing. With everyone I am lucky enough to meet and live my life with, I hope my life reflects that there is hope and life and a safe place for them. Everyone is welcome in my living room.
I don’t need to know more beyond that. It makes my life a beautiful adventure I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I’m still figuring it out every day as I go along. Sometimes I make stupid choices that don’t line up with my core. (If you’ve somehow read my blog and think I have it all figured out… um, let me just fix that accidental impression. I don’t.)
Figure out your center, unshakeable heart’s core. In life and in your art. Find people in your life who are going to love you and walk with you and remind you every single day of your core – and hold you to it.
Look at your core heart as something you carry with you, clasped in your hand at every turn. You carry it along with you.
And then it doesn’t really matter if you go left or right, does it?