A fiction writers canvas is a blank piece of paper.
Where do their ideas and stories come from? Past experience? A creative fluke? The Muse? No one is quite sure. Regardless, fiction writers produce thousands of words to bring us into their fantasy.
I admire fiction writers. Writing is hard. If you don’t believe me, try it. The hardest thing about writing is battling your own self-doubt. You pour your creative energy onto paper hoping to inspire, entertain, or connect with your audience. All the while risking humiliation, critical reviews, and failure.
Why write and publish when it is easier to hide and run?
Sometimes it is easier to get your thoughts out on paper then to deal with the internal torment of leaving your story undiscovered.
Try this out. Sit in complete silence and listen to yourself think. As you do this you will notice something very peculiar. The voice that you hear is constantly speaking to you. If you pay close attention you will realize that this voice has a mind of its own. Most of the thoughts you think aren’t under your control. They range from random facts, to songs stuck in your head, to dinner plans.
Thought patterns will emerge if you spend enough time listening to your own thoughts. One of the patterns you will notice is that you are great at creating stories.
Here is an example.
You text your boyfriend and ask him to meet you for dinner. Your boyfriend does not return your text. These are the stories you tell yourself:
After waiting one hour: “He might be a little bit busy right now.”
After waiting two hours: “OMG! Text me back so that I know you are still alive.”
After waiting three hours: “Was it something I did?”
After waiting four hours: “OK, he’s definitely cheating on me!”
In a roundabout way, you create stories like a fiction writer. Your favorite topic to think about is your past and future.
Here are your two bestsellers:
1. Something Occurred in My Past, and it Limits Me Now.
2. Something That Has Yet to Occur but May Occur, So I Worry About It Now.
In both cases, your story creates unjust harm for yourself.
The past is a poor predictor of the future. Just because something occurred once, it doesn’t mean it will occur again. We have the ability to re-write our stories in the present moment. Fiction writers use this trick all the time - its call the DELETE key.
The future you imagine doesn’t exist and may never exist. How many times have you been in a situation where you expect the worse-case scenario to occur, only to witness that things were not as bad as you imagined? It is foolish to cause ourselves emotional turmoil for something that has yet to occur and most likely will never occur.
The morale of the story is this. The next time you catch yourself in a state of panic or depression, pretend that you are a fiction writer. Write your story down on paper as if it was make belief. Read it as if it was make belief. Edit it as if it was make belief.
The reality is, it probably is make belief anyways.