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)