There is a great river in Africa known as The Zambezi. It’s one of the top whitewater rafting spots in the world, and it’s replete with crocodiles and hippos. In other words, there are more than a few ways to die on the great river, and in that it’s a lot like life. When faced with the wild majesty that is a human life, there are two maybe three ways to play it: you can stay your arse on the shore where your odds of being eaten by a crocodile or charged by a hippo are relatively low. You can dip your boat in the river but try to stay close to the relative safety of shore. Or, you can raft the darn thing, with all the glory and risk that entails.
I’m the raft the river type. I asked my mother, once, what she thought of me when I was a child. She said, “I thought you were adventurous, and tried my best to rid you of that. I was afraid you’d jump off the roof.” What she didn’t know is that I may have been young, but I had good sense. Not once have I jumped off a roof. I’m more the cliff jumping type. I jumped off the cliff into the creative life, and I’ve never regretted taking the leap of faith. Life, my life, is about the adventure, it’s about the journey we take through the rough terrain of a human life.
Tags: Courage, The Story Of Your Life
I’m at work on a novel and one of the joyous surprises is how frequently magic appears on the page, unbidden. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, but out of the threads of the story I’ve been weaving with a conscious awareness of the plot and where it is going. Coming from screenwriting, I’d imagined, before I started writing this book, that I understood the shake and rhythms and pacing of the book and that the plot I’d outlined was more or less the plot I’d follow. What I’d learned, however, is that the plot of this novel is just the skeleton and that the writing itself is the flesh and the spirit that animates.
So yesterday, as I was making good on my pages, some words found there way onto the page that weren’t expected, and it wasn’t just the words. It was the ideas, the concept, the metaphor that I realized would add another bit of texture to an already texturally rich book. This, I realized, is what language is, it’s how it weaves its magic, it’s why story imprints itself so deeply into the imagination. Words have one meaning. And, then, through story, they have another. Whole layers of meaning piled on top of one another — or, more accurately, woven into a tapestry – until a world is made. In my story, my protagonist is weaving a tapestry from the many disparate experiences of his life. He is, in other words, as we all are, consciously or not (and most often not) weaving the story of his life from all the things that have come to him unbidden, and all the things he’s chosen, and all of his passions and longing and pains and disappointments, all of it grist for the mill, or threads for his loom. And that got me thinking…
Tags: The Story Of Your Life, Writing Novels
Here’s the thing about blind spots. We don’t know we have them. We think we’re perpetually broke because because we have bad luck, or that we can’t find love because there are no good men, when the truth is we need an actual plan — preferably a flexible one with built in room to maneuver and respond to the unexpected opportunities and curve balls that life throws our way — or simply a new point of view. Our biggest blind spot of all may be that we’re looking at our life through the wrong lens. We mistake an essential part of our narrative for a colossal mistake that will forever up-end our life. We forget that bumps in the road are part of any good journey, and that knowing how to navigate a bumpy road is the only skill you really need to lead a juicy life. We think that the big mistakes ruin us and the little mistakes don’t matter, when really the reverse is true. The big mistakes build character — and, if we are willing to be an active protagonist in the story of our own life, they build the narrative of a really good life. Check out any great movie and you’ll see what I mean. In The King’s Speech, Bertie finds his voice because of not in spite of his adversities. He fights his way through his stutter, kicking and screaming as often as not, to the life of import that awaited him on the other side. Creasy in Man On Fire finds something worth living for before he dies because he takes the job he can do in his broken down, heavy drinking state and gives himself over, kicking and screaming, to the persistent love of a child. In each instance, the big flaw or the big mistake ends up being the gateway to the transcendent possibility that’s hidden inside of every life — and the devil at the crossroads ends up being the small peccadilloes of mind that keep us from seeing what a thing is really for.
Tags: Blind Spots, Film Narrative, HuffPost, HuffPost Live, Princess Pan, The Story Of Your Life, Tracy McMillan, Why You're Not Married
I’ve wrestled with ambition for as long as I can remember, alternately running towards it and away from it, as if, by outpacing the ghost of ambition, I could somehow keep myself safe. What was I afraid of? Of being seen only through the lens of my accomplishments I suppose. I never was sure how to square the big life I wanted with the deeper desires I harbored for the kind of love that doesn’t depend on accomplishment. I wanted to be loved “just for me,” and early on developed a suspicion that having my name writ large might interfere with that. My fears made a certain kind of sense. On Oprah’s Next Chapter, Steven Spielberg spoke about the challenge each of his children faced working out whether people liked them or their high-powered name. Jamie Foxx said something similar the year his Academy Award win catapulted him into the stratosphere. He opined that he’d never marry due to the difficulty of finding a woman who wanted him for him rather than for the shiny package he comes in. He gave the dilemma a different spin on Oprah’s Next Chapter where he talked about “the mist” and how, when you’ve got “the mist”, you look really good, but if the mist evaporates, you go right back to being a frog, in the eyes of the hangers-on at least.
Tags: Ambition, Jamie Foxx, Oprah, Stephen Spielberg, The Story Of Your Life, The Vision