Day 20 of 40 Days of Story: You are no fool.

There’s this saying: The worst thing for your character is the best thing for your story.

 

In story structure, we design a series of missteps for our character. Everyone knows our hero should do one thing, but she does the other.

 

As viewers we want to scream: Don’t do that!!! It’s only going to lead to a world of hurt.

 

We can see others’ missteps so clearly.

 

And you know, they can see ours. That’s why we are desperate to have dear friends who see us, love us, and speak the truth to us about our stories.  We all have blind spots, bad moves, and unhelpful patterns…and so we need others to help us with those.

 

And…we also need community to say to us: You are no fool.

 

Sometimes we tell ourselves a story about our own story that isn’t true, and so terribly unhelpful. We call ourselves the fool when we’re not.

 

I know this all too well. Take for instance, yesterday. I was trying to make sense of my broken heart and lamenting to a dear friend a pattern I wondered if I was destined to always repeat. I go deep with a man I’m dating, he confronts a hard family of origin issue, he realizes he’s not ready to move forward, the relationship ends, then he works through it and marries the next woman he dates.

 

After hearing my story, my dear friend (who happens to be a skilled therapist) reminded me I can’t control timing and other people’s stories. And the reality is, that hasn’t always been my story. It was just the story that came to mind. I know I have plenty to work on, but it was a grace to be reminded that in this story: I’m no fool.

 

So here’s my question for you: What in your story tries to say you’re a fool?  Or perhaps you’ll connect with this: What’s the fake news in your own story?

 

It’s often hard to answer that question on our own. So, who in your life can help fact check your own story?

 

May you be encouraged on this April Fool’s Day: You are no fool, my friend!

 

Day 19 of 40 Day of Story: Where are you finding beauty in your story?

I am a big believer that beauty re-calibrates our souls…and it helps us re-write a better story.

 

During this week of Story we continue to find ourselves in the Messy Middle. It’s the longest section in books, plays and movies with so much happening in the plot and sub-plots. Yet when it comes to our own stories we can find ourselves completely lost. We can so easily forget we’re in the midst of a larger story.

 

That’s why I believe the harder our stories get the more we need beauty.

 

This weekend I was so grateful to have stolen away to the NC Mountains (Valle Crucis) with women from my church (Warehouse 242) and be immersed in the beauty of nature, the richness of community and the inviting Presence of God.

 

I remember reading a line by a very thoughtful (dead) Frenchman that essentially said this: Beauty is one of the few things that doesn’t lead to doubt in God.

 

There is so much in the Messy Middle of life that causes us to doubt a better story.

 

But when we let beauty whisper to us we may be surprised by what we hear.

 

Where are you finding beauty in your story?

 

 

Day 18 of 40 Days of Story: What are the negative and positives charges of your story?

In the midst of the messy middle of story there’s the dynamic of positive and negative charges. Robert McKee, author of the classic screenwriting text Story, writes about this extensively. And here’s the gist: In story something bad happens (-) and then something good (+). But the next bad thing that happens must be worse (- -) and then something doubly good needs to happen (++). So as our hero moves closer to the desired goal the stakes increase and the intensity builds.

 

While our own stories may not feel that systematically plotted—the reality is when we are moving toward beautiful and important things resistance comes. And it often intensifies the closer we get.

 

We can feel lost in those double – – charges. It sucks. And…it’s utterly normal. Yet, when it happens to us it seems unlike any other. And wow! Do I know…

 

When I was working on the Startup Cuba documentary series I found myself more stuck and despairing in a story than I ever had been. During that time a dear friend reassured me I was simply in the messy middle and that I had always found my way out of stories before and I would this time. It was so hard to believe him and even harder to believe in myself. But I determined to rally and tag on to his belief.

 

Then the next shoot—the final shoot—was a disaster. That sense of feeling lost got worse. I failed. So, this was going to be the time I didn’t make it through. The – – – – – charges were off the charts.

 

Right before we were leaving to the airport then something clicked for me. I could see the path out. But as I said, this was our final shoot.

 

Yet, grace upon grace–positive charge doubled–my business partner kindly agreed to hop back on the plane a few days later and I was given 48 hours to try to right the whole series. I threw in my own funds and ended up shooting most of it myself. But that wasn’t what did it…there was a divine choreography that I can’t take credit for. It was as if someone had gone before us and lined the streets with people who could give us the candid interviews I knew we were lacking. And I was finally able to direct in a style the project desperately needed. The story was rescued.

 

The gift of that trip was magnified by the disastrous one before.

 

And so it is with all our stories. If we can trust there are graces in the negatives then we can be better poised to savor the positives that come our way.

 

All this reminds me of an idea I’ve carried in my heart for many years thanks to Simone Weil. Essentially she says:

There are two things that pierce the soul…one is beauty and the other is affliction…and if we are to truly live we must be pierced by both.

 

We must live with the positive and negative charges of life.

 

What are yours at the moment?

 

Whatever they are may you find grace in the negatives and gratitude in the positives today.

 

 

Day 16 of 40 Days of Story: What’s got you laughing today?

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain

Yesterday I got all heady about two ways conflict can serve our stories. But there’s a third…and it’s much more fun. Conflict/challenges/obstacles can also serve as great fodder for laughter.

 

Laughter can help us move through conflict more robustly…essentially make us conflict-resilient. Or as my good friend Tabitha says, “Laughter is the lubricant to life.” It helps us move through life’s frictions.

 

I have found laughter to be all the more vital during tough seasons. During that year-and-a-half of interviewing sex-trafficking survivors I lived on a steady diet of sit-coms and even went about writing a romantic comedy screenplay…simply as cheap therapy.

 

Perhaps even better than laughing at the screen is being able to laugh at yourself. And I’ll tell, I have an uncanny ability to generate reasons to laugh at myself…from my sketchy motor skills, to my less than graceful attempts at foreign languages, to my combative relationship with rhythm on the dance floor…I bring the fodder!

 

But here’s the deal: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re wasting prime ways to redeem conflict.

 

Humor has always been a critical role in stories…even in very serious dramas. Laughter serves as a release valve as the conflict intensifies. It enables us to catch our breaths…because we all know more conflict is on it’s way.

 

So what has you laughing today?

 

For me, it was laughing hard with my charming nephew who cracks me up. It did my heart good. And you?

 

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