Letting Your Story Unfold

I’ve recently returned from a major writers’ conference in NYC and my brain is still on fire with all that I learned from a vast array of aspiring speakers. But, it was the bonus “pre” all-day presentation, entitled “Story Trumps Structure”(also a book) by acclaimed psychological thriller author Steven James that gave me the most potent shot of momentum—not only for my own creative writing but in how I approach and live life.

What the heck does letting your story unfold have to do with building a life in Italy? Well, plenty.

The “Middle Way” can be your sweet spot.

If there’s anything my life in Italy is teaching me it’s that being successful and being happy (and sane) means finding the balance between well-laid plans and loads of flexibility. I’ve written about this before, but the more I doggedly adhered to my structured outline of how I thought my journey was to play out the more I was cutting myself from other possibilities—possibilites that were WAY better!

At the writing conference, I heard, loud and clear, how writing with an outline sitting on one’s altar can become a straightjacket to creativity. “Letting your story unfold” seemed to be a reoccurring theme with other speakers as well.

Mid-conference, I paused, and said to myself, “Message received.” It was as though the keys to my self-imposed jail cell of control had been handed to me with the message, “Free yourself!” I vowed to place greater trust in my inner writing muse.

Then I shifted gears to reflect on my first five years in Italy.

My well-articulated Italy plans included moving to our home in Umbria and putting roots down permanently. But then, for one and a half years, Rome became part of the picture, and then, Treviso, where we now live quite contentedly. Funny, even though Venice has always been my favorite city in Italy, I’d never allowed myself to explore the fantasy of living in its proximity. And violá, here I am!

The above changes came with a bit of kicking and screaming. Prying loose my tenacious grip on my initial script didn’t come easily. It was only when I finally began to let go, to let the river of possibility take me, that life opened up and became juicy.

As I write this, I realize my story might just take me somewhere else. The temptation to nail down an idyllic formula of life at this point and time and not entertain further change always lurks. Old habits can come roaring back into town if we’re not careful.

Not everyone has an appetite for adventure and change.

Letting your story unfold is advice that can cause many people to stiffen. Wanting the security of knowing what to expect is understandable. That’s been me much of my life. That’s also been at the root of worry, anxiety, and exhaustion. I had to wear myself out before I began to adopt a more organic approach to living.

Start with an outline, but don’t be married to it.

It goes against many long-held writing tenets. Such an approach encourages a writer to push boundaries and break the rules. It makes room for the unknown, for the sibyls of creativity to whisper in our ears and be heard. It makes play and experimentation equally as important as planning and process.

In life, go ahead, have a general outline in your pocket. Just don’t have it constantly in your hand, staring at it as you move along. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see other things as they emerge on your path. And you’ll probably trip several times because you’re too fixated on your map versus the actual road.

The process and logistics of moving to Italy can become all-consuming.

Believe me, I’ve lived it and I’ve heard countless stores from many of my followers. It’s tempting and easy to keep trying to tighten the reins to have a better sense of control of the many gray areas and uncertainties.

In creating Italywise, one of my main objectives was to be able to that person who has ventured further down the path of creating a life in Italy—one who turns to shout back useful information to people just starting and to urge them on.

Letting your story unfolds is also letting your path give you information as you proceed. Keep your outline in your back pocket. Be willing to keep revising it. Just don’t let it rule you.

Ultimately we have to let go if we desire a life full of color and dimension.

I’m convinced of this more and more. I don’t want safe. I don’t want predictable. I don’t want to be limited by conditioned beliefs in what’s logically achievable and possible. Letting your story unfold is another way of say “be unattached to the outcome.”

Deepak Chopra’s Law of Detachment is becoming a constant refuge for me.

“I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic and mystery of life.” —Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (available at Amazon.com)


By |2019-01-17T23:07:34+01:00August 23rd, 2018|Living in Italy, Personal musings|11 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Linda Dini Jenkins August 28, 2018 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed: Wonderful, as always! Was it the WD Conference that you attended? I go there most every year, but had to miss this year. Let me know if you go again and we can meet up! I’m one of those people who always wrote the outline AFTER I wrote the report . . . now I’m vindicated. Grazie! We head for Sulmona in late September, then do a tour in Le Marche, Civitella del Tronto and eventually back to Sulmona. Any chance you’ll be visitng Novelia in Seot – Oct? Can’t wait to get back! Linda

    • Jed August 29, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda, yes, it was the WD Conference. It was awesome and I came away armed with some important insights and contacts. I’ll plan to return next year and maybe we can meet up and compare notes. Sept in Sulmona is out of the questions since we already are booked, but maybe October. Depends on my work schedule. Usually I have a photo shoot then. Let’s stay in touch. It would be great to meet up.

  2. Avani August 24, 2018 at 5:31 am - Reply

    Wonderful article Jed. and very timely…. husband and I just got our visa and we leave Australia in 5 weeks!! Its been a 10 year dream to go live in italy…. I personally live more in the adventure, husband likes to know and have structure…. but going to live in italy is presenting that juicy opportunity to let go of the outdated and unnecessary ideas about how life should flow. Im super excited to just see what unfolds… I just know there will be plenty of opportunity and things to explore and experience. I have no idea where things will take us but I do know that we are about to radically shift our life and our paradigm. And, I guarantee my husband will love every minute of it! thanks again. Avani

    • Jed August 24, 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Great news! Thanks for sharing. Todi is a beautiful town. I’ve been there many times. The Italian consulates each have unique personalities. But, the most important thing, in my opinion, is clear, organized documentation that leaves no question as to whether you can support yourselves. As for the permesso application, I went through the CISL Union office in Città di Castello, where one morning each week, a man assisted (for free) people needing the permesso application. What was great about this was that he check all my paperwork and created my application in the computer, and handed me the entire packet with instructions (including the required bollo) for filing at the post office, where they will schedule your questura appt. if your local CISL office in Todi offers this service is jump on it. Filling out the form by yourself can be tedious and you run the risk of not having the complete paperwork. Just a suggestion. Now, the REAL adventure begins! Please stay in touch. Jed

  3. Debra August 23, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Hey, Jed…
    I can very much relate to the “be open to what may come your way” type of thinking. However, most of my family seem to require a more concrete plan for my eventual move to Sulmona. Their way of thinking won’t deter me at all, I know how amazing this move will be, it’s just I feel like they are missing out. I guess that’s why not everyone is up to such a great adventure! Anyhow, thanks as always for your inspiring writings.

    • Jed August 23, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      As always, thank you, Debra! I come from a family of meticulous planners. When I first bought my house in Umbria many years ago (and when having the house was the fulfillment of having a vacation home fantasy) my oldest sister and my mom had a noticeable freakout moment. I knew I was stepping into uncharted waters but something inside me (thankfully) told me to leap! And, then the road just kept unfolding…

  4. Chip Meeks August 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Go with the flow! Funny, I just heard this in the last 30 minutes from a psychoanalyst, if you want to be (or appear to be) in control of your life! Another great read Jed! Thanks! Have a great reat of your week!

    • Jed August 23, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      That’s wild, Chip. Funny how these themes keep popping up. Life is full of paradox. I’m vacationing with Shelley and Dale in just two days. Sibling time! I’ll say hello for you. Have a good one!

      • Chip Meeks August 24, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

        Good deal! Schön gruss (a fine hello!) to “all y’all!” Have a blast at the family gathering!

  5. Kevin August 23, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Really inspiring Jed! I recognize a truth (and wisdom) in your words that is so very well timed for my personal head space. Guilty as charged! A lot of food for thought perfectly timed! Grazie Mille!

    • Jed August 23, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Prego! I’m glad this post landed at a good time for you, my friend. Safe travels!

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