In writing, it is easy to lose our way as writers, the same way it is easy in life, to lose our way as individuals. We stare at the blank page- whether of our next story or of the next day, trying with all our might to draw the right words out, onto the paper, because we know how much power words have to affect us, the individuals around us and our outcomes. Our words can build or destroy, depending on how, why and when they are used.
One way we can avoid getting lost is first to recognize what is important to us, or what gives us the most pain, or on the other hand, the most hope. What must we do to inspire the change we need? What steps must we take in order to induce that change, and what path must we follow in order to move away from the something we know has been wrong, to free us to move toward the something better, that we need or deserve? What will it take to propel us through the starting gate, and then ultimately- to guide us across the finish line, way off in the distance?
An inciting incident pushes our protagonist through the gate, and then subsequent cause and effect events (or scenes), keep her moving. There will be times she will stumble over obstacles, second guess her decisions and actions, and even hit rock bottom somewhere along the way, before she will reach the point of no return- when there is no way she can turn back toward her past or the place in which she once felt safe. Along her journey she will make sacrifices or endure pain, and she will attract accomplices, supporters and enemies like moths to the light. Antagonists will try to crush her, or at least to prevent her from attaining her goal. She will need to remain focussed and strong if she is serious about making it to the next stage of her journey, and then on to the stage after that, and so forth.
Runners use mile markers placed along a course to identify how far they’ve come and how much further they have to go. Along the route, aid stations are staffed with supporters who hand out water or towels for relief and comfort, and sidelines are crowded with spectators who share words of encouragement and praise. Family and friends wait patiently among the fans, scanning the runners for their loved ones, worrying, fretting, shouting, and finally clapping their hands until they become raw.
The course is rugged, uneven, never-ending, and full of numerous steep hills. Yet, despite these challenges or because of them, the runners reach inside themselves for the faith and spirit within, and around them -to their supporters or loved ones for reassurance, the same way writers reach from their thoughts for the right words, to spill on to the paper, to create something or somewhere better.
In the well known movie and one of my personal favorites; Forest Gump, what was it that made Forest run and why did he run for so long? How was he able to keep going and going, and why did he want to? From where did he get his strength and his desire to take off, and continue?
Dr. Rob Bell, a Sport Psychology Coach or as he is sometimes referred to, “ a Mental Toughness Coach”, wrote this about Forest’s reason for running;
Forest Gump was in pain. He was hurting. He was at his bottom.
And we’ve all been there, at our bottom. It’s different for everybody. But, it’s where change takes place. It’s a motivating factor.Desperation. Frustration. Hurt. Pain.
That’s the reason Forrest Gump started running that day. And the bottom we hit is what causes our own change as well. We need to want to change and get better so badly, that we will do whatever it takes. If we are comfortable, then we need more pain before change will occur.
Now, (he continues to say), the past is okay to look at, but we can’t stare at it. The reason Forrest Gump started running WAS NOT the reason why he kept running. He certainly didn’t keep running his whole life. His why changed along the way.
He said it later near the end of the running sequence montage of the movie, “You need to put the past behind you before you can move on.”
Does your why also involve other people, or is it just about you? Would have Forrest kept running if it wasn’t for all of the people who joined him? Perhaps so, but there’s no denying that he did have a lot of company with him. He ran for three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours. That’s usually enough time to run past the pain. Depends… I do know that running helps.
Whether the rock bottom is our protagonist’s to drag herself up from, or our own to climb out of, it is the inciting incident or life changing event, that promotes the need to move away from one (bad, painful, negative, broken, worn, heartbreaking, traumatic…..) moment or situation, toward something better or different, that pushes us and our characters forward. Whether it is pain, a bad decision, a conflict or someone, that pushes us outside our box, or through the gate, it is change that ultimately empowers us to cross the finish line in the end. Or perhaps, it is actually the act of crossing the finish line itself that truly allows us, or our beloved character, to change and not the other way around. Perhaps, it is in taking the steps and the chance, without knowing if we will ever make it across in the end, that promotes the change within ourselves that we needed to begin with.
William Faulkner said; Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad.But its the only way you can do anything really good. By recognizing what it is that we want to move away from, and that we need to at all, and why, and identifying what we want to move toward (something better), and recognizing that we are never alone on our journey, while pacing ourselves from marker to marker, stage to stage, chapter to chapter, and remaining mindful to make the right decisions, or choose the right words, to lead us forward and not backward, the distance to the finish line will grow shorter, until we make it across, at last. And in that instance, we just might recognize that there is no real finish line, because we will always be moving forward, the same way Forest Gump kept on running.