“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Simplify; Hop Over Detours

Rule 5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

Once again I am struck by the way that the Pixar Rules of Storytelling match life. Imagine this not as a strategy for good writing, but one for life.

Think of the most recent problem/setback/stress in your life. The one that gave you that piercing headache in your eyebrow, made you want to pull the covers over your head, and eat a lot of carbs. (Wait. Doesn't everyone do that?) What did you have to do to get through that problem? Well, honestly, I can't know. Maybe you did fill up on bread and French fries and pretzels and...okay, pregnant lady is getting distracted...

Back to the point. Whenever we're bogged down by life, we generally need to take a step back. See the proverbial big picture. There are a lot of details about the situation, a lot of backstory, that we get all hung up on. There are what-ifs or could-haves. There are worst case scenarios and distant, but probably unattainable, possibilities. There is so much to the whole circumstance that our brain overloads just thinking about it, resulting in that piercing eyebrow headache.

So what do we need to do? Cut to the point. Every problem has its solution, even if we don't like it. Even if it's hard. And it's not just hard to carry out that solution, it's hard to forget the little things that we know about all the rest. The he-saids and she-saids, the fine print, the emotions. But we have to forget all that, and ask, "What is really the issue here?" and "How can I best fix it?" So we have to forget. Or put to the side. Grow larger and force ourselves to remember those things are smaller in the grand scheme of things.

Simplify. Focus. Hop over detours. Let go of what seems important (probably only to you) in order to be free to correct the problem.

And that part about combining characters? In writing, this is important because too many people with too many roles is confusing and cumbersome both to the reader and to you, the writer. There's too many "he saids" and "she saids" and varying scenes and details to remember. In life, it's no different. We tend to spread ourselves out among the people we love or value or even dislike, wearing ourselves thin and knowing we'll never please everyone.

As a writer, I say choose the qualities you like from each character and place them into one great person, or two great people. For a life situation, limit yourself in a situation to the people who will help you the most. If you are bogged down by the negative things people have said, or the scary things they've predicted, or how a person has hurt you, cut it loose. Forget it. Focus on what you can learn, what you can change, and what you can control. The rest is useless.

The truth is, life is just writing your own story. No, I know I didn't invent that. But it's such a valid point I had to use it here. In both a good story and the lives we want to lead, we've got to eliminate what holds us back. We must be strong, we must be choosy, and we must make our story worth telling.

Please check out what the other bloggers are saying about Rule #5!

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