Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN

It’s amazing how after you pick a word for the year, it keeps showing up in your daily life.  For instance, I started reading a book on the craft of writing, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, before the holidays.  When I picked it up after the new year, I opened it up to the chapter where I left off.  It’s titled, “Courting Conflict, the Agent of Change.”  And there’s my word staring back at me 😉

But it was just what I needed to read.  It’s a reminder of what makes a story.

“Story is about change, which results only from unavoidable conflict.”

Ironically, in real life, “The brain is wired to stubbornly resist change, even good change.”

It’s a great paradox.  We avoid change to stay comfortable, yet we long for new experiences.  Story is one way for us to experience something without actually having to live it.  It’s also a way for us to prepare ourselves for a given situation, in case at some future point we find ourselves in that same situation.

So as a writer, don’t be afraid of putting your characters into the most dire straits.  The greater the risk, the greater the reward, and it creates the ultimate suspense!

But what about in life?  Sure, we want to avoid conflict, but at the same time, we don’t want life to pass us by, never doing the things we dream of doing, just because we’re afraid of change.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”  –Anatole France

I think what change calls for is a big dose of bravery.  And where can we find that?  Look no further than in stories–the stories of others who have been through similar circumstances as well as the stories found in books.

I just finished reading a book by one of my new favorite authors, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell.  A white girl from Africa loses her father and is sent to an English boarding school where she encounters mean girls and culture shock.  Talk about change AND conflict!

Whether you find yourself in this particular situation or not, there’s a lot of wisdom to be learned by following the girl’s story as she runs away from her troubles.  Here are some of my favorite quotes.

“It is real life that takes the real courage, little wildcat…  Although life is very beautiful, it is also very difficult.”

“Hiding and panic go together.  There is nothing in this world that is worse than panic.”

“I do know how difficult school can be, my love.  I hated it myself.  If you go back, it won’t be like cartwheeling in the sunshine.  It would be more like cartwheeling into the wind.”

“But it would be the best possible training.  It would make your arms strong…  And your heart.  You could build a cartwheeling, wildcat heart.”

So go after what you want, even if it means change.  Because in the end, you’ll find you’ve changed, too.  You’ll be stronger for it, and your dreams will become reality.  And boy will you have a good story to tell!

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