Stories we tell ourselves

I’m going to start with a major cliche. Sorry but here goes…

We all have our own story.

BUT. Here is where I try something a little different. My cliche is more forward-facing than backward.

I think we all write our own story long before it has eventuated. We imagine ourselves in the future, doing the cool things we want to do, working the job that we studied so hard at university for, becoming the person we always wanted to be etc.

When does a story stop becoming a story and start becoming a barrier? At what point do we stop and think — is this actually what I want, or am I just doing this because I always thought I would? Because this is how my story goes? Because I’m too scared to stop, edit, re-assess and amend.

We all know what makes a good story. You need the characters first of course, hopefully a broad range of interesting and competing personalities. You need conflict, something that can be resolved and leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction. You also need a setting, a background that becomes just as much a part of the story as the people within it. And you need some kind of theme that ties all of these elements together seamlessly to create a story rather than just a jumble of words.

How could you possibly write a story without the above? How could you create something from nothing when you don’t even know who the main players are? Or where they will be?

Now back to my cliche — our own story.

I am starting to realise how important it is to step back from our lives every once in a while. To step out of the story. To stop being a character and start being the writer. Too often we feel boxed in and tied down by the stories we ourselves have created. But how could we have possibly known where our story would go when we first created it? Without knowing who would come into our lives, without knowing how we would interact with all the possible situations we could encounter, without knowing how we would feel and what it would all look like?

So this is my new story. I will no longer be a passive vessel in something that I created unknowingly all those years ago. It is okay to change your mind, it is okay to have NO IDEA where you will be in 5 years or to head in a direction that you never could have anticipated. I will not let the story I wrote so lazily control my future.

I thought my story would go something like this: study at university, get a good job, continue in my chosen profession until I eventually make partner/open my own firm, live happily ever after, maybe have kids, get married, the end.

Sometimes I don’t even know how much of my story is my own. How often have I let others fill in a few chapters? Aren’t we all guilty of that sometimes?

I keep jokingly referring to my current state as my ‘quarter life crisis’. Probably only half joking. Okay, maybe only a tiny bit joking.

The point is, it doesn’t have to be a crisis at all.

I am doing what any good writer would do — editing my story. Taking out the characters that I can now see aren’t relevant or helpful. Taking out the plots that no longer interest me. And that’s okay. I am also learning that I don’t have to write my story all at once. I’m taking a page out of George R.R. Martin’s book and taking my sweet ass time (come on George, help a sister out and finish the next book damnit!).

So the moral of this story (pun intended) is to just chill. Be a writer, not just a reader.

It is the most important story you will ever write, make it your best work.

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