The truth behind fiction
Structure is such an interesting thing. Rules, authority, discipline…we rail against is all. Leave us alone! Give us our freedom. Let me do what I want! You’re not the boss of me.
Yet, I look back at the times of real growth for me, times that propelled me toward who I am today, times that were real and tough and took courage. It was there that I sought structure. What do I do here? I have all this bubbling inside me. How do I make sense of it? express it? communicate it?
There I turned to people who did well at what I was trying to do. I asked, what’s your secret? And they didn’t share a secret, but a process or structure they had developed based on years of effort and experience. They helped me put things in their proper order, so I could see the big finish I was building toward. Not as a dream far off in the distance but as a place with stepping stones that would get me there.
The stepping stones were structure, meant to be negotiated one by one. Perhaps that’s why I chose the gravatar I did for the Kinesthetic Christian. Stepping stones across a small creek. Small round pillars showing me the way.
How often I’ve looked with longing across a raging river to the far bank, so lush and green and inviting, and dived right in. I’m a good swimmer after all. I can ford these waves, plow through the miles, endure the frigid water. No problem. I’m strong. I’ve got resources.
But for these successful people – effective, knowledgeable and consistently productive – it wasn’t just about the resources. In fact, just plowing through would have been disastrous. No, they had a method. And they were patient and generous enough to share it with me.
Their way couldn’t be my way, exactly. But their method, their stepping stones, could. These people who looked like they just waved a magic wand and up rose a miracle, actually took things step by step. Just as I needed to. But I was a long way off.
I look back today on the first run of my story. How naive and unguided I was to think it would work to take the reader by the hand and say, “Okay, in chapter one I’m going to teach you this.” “Now in chapter two I’m going to teach you this.”
Yet, my mentors accepted my naivete without chastisement and ushered me behind the magic curtain. There lurks the mess that proves too much for many, perhaps most. But the one meant to create has no choice. The creative is compelled to wade in and impart order and, in doing so, create something so dazzling that no trace of the design process may remain. The first strokes are brushed over. The outlines removed. The sketches tossed. All that is evident is the product – the story, the painting, the outcome – and it is gripping.
These masters of their craft have our allegiance. We’ll follow them anywhere, trust them with everything, even though we have no idea where they’re taking us. Because their track record is impeccable. The process, applied even perhaps in new and different projects, works every time.
I can imagine God working just this way. Laying down the structure and then orchestrating the details so beautifully that no trace remains. We live in the details, but the structure assures we will get to the destination. By this, we’re completely free to step from stone to stone. When we look back, it will look like a life lived out. A story told. Just as it should have been.
It amazes me that I can dive into fiction using the same structured approach I learned writing non-fiction. At least with non-fiction, readers know you’re stating a truth. In fiction, good fiction, only the story line shows; the truth is hidden. Perhaps fiction is the highest form of deception and the most complete version of truth.
Giving thanks today to Tom and Mary Lou for their guidance and belief in me and in something beyond me.