If you don’t like today’s Texas weather, wait ten minutes and it will change. If you are dis-satisfied with your life at the moment, it is but a single chapter in your life. A paper book contains
a plot and storylines permanently inscribed and arranged in neat chapters. Life chapters are less clearly delineated, but neither are they preordained and permanent.
To take a lead in your own life keep two things in mind. 1) Your current experience is a single chapter in your life, and your life is a book with many chapters. 2) You are the author of that book. If the current storylines are too derivative and predictable, you need to exert change leading to the next chapter.
If your life flashed before your eyes in an instant, what would it look like? It seems unlikely one would re-experience the entirety of one’s life in that moment. Rather, it is more likely to be a pastiche of significant events, each event representing a unique chapter.
Like chapters in a book, life chapters signify transition and change. One does not necessarily notice change as it is lived. Consider the parent who is oblivious to their child’s growth until it is pointed out by a relative who sees the child only on holidays. You may think your own life is pretty consistent and repetitive until you reflect on prior chapters.
The content of life chapters can be based on age, school, work, relationships, marriage, death, childbearing, (and child rearing; with the child’s parallel chapters of age, school, etc.); each ‘story line’ overlapping and influencing the others.
It is a common presumption that, in order to write a good book, the author begins with a fairly complete outline. Yet many successful authors do not. In fact, many fiction writers begin a new project with little more than the idea of a character, a fictional person that has emerged in their mind, whom they would like to explore.
That makes every new book an evolving mystery. The author uses descriptive prose not only to entertain the eventual reader, but to derive a personal understanding of emerging characters, situations, and plot lines. That process creates as much delight in the writing as will subsequently be experienced by the reader.
As the author of your own life, character development occurs as a process of reflection. If you are dis-satisfied with yourself, decide what you want and start writing your current chapter to accommodate that character. Better yet, consider how impressions of a character change throughout a paper book, particularly mysteries. Authors intentionally create situations that lead to suspicion. Then, one by one, the suspicions are reversed as the plot gets closer and closer to the true culprit.
In your own life, as you reflect on prior chapters, remembered ‘facts’ (negativity about a variety of characters and situations) may soften to suspicion. As the ‘better you’ evolves in the current chapter, it might be revealed that those suspicions were merely mis-apprehension; that your character in that past moment was justified in that suspicion, but the ‘better you’ now knows better. That is the character you strive to continue developing in future chapters.
Put another way… When you were born, the life ahead of you was fiction. What you make of life, with each new chapter, is biography. Biography is supported by facts and therefore is non-fiction. But look at how many biographies have been written about Abraham Lincoln, many coming to conclusions that contradict the others. Interpretation is the key.
As you move inexorably toward your next chapter, are you developing the character you want to be?