|Photo credit: RoganJosh from morguefile.com|
But there’s another way to think about life’s rough patches—as opportunity. This perspective is something I’ve been raised with, but didn’t always appreciate. A mishap with the plumbing in our hundred-year-old urban rowhouse was a poignant refresher course.
In early August 2009, I had a harrowing night when our third floor toilet’s water line broke. The problem went unnoticed for about 20 minutes, until the water started raining into the second floor through a light fixture and continued downward into the first floor and basement. The next few hours were eaten up with bailing, mopping, tamping down towels, laundering towels, running fans. The next morning, as I stumbled around, fatigued and worried a ceiling might still collapse, I couldn’t help but remember what my mother always says about these sorts of disasters: “it will make a good story later.”
If my life is a story, then it’s the messes, mishaps, and failures that actually make it interesting. Not that I seek these things out, but when disaster does occur, it carries with it the promise of bringing something ultimately transformative, maybe even redemptive. “It will make a good story later” makes me notice things I otherwise wouldn’t, from the shape of stains on the ceiling to the way my husband’s shoulders slump as he contemplates them.
Watching Mom over the years ferret away details in the midst of turmoil then transform them into captivating comic stories has been quite an education. Not only have I learned to see the humor potential in all things (and to never take myself too seriously), I’ve also gained a habit of attentiveness when life goes awry—a valuable skill in any writer’s toolbox.
As you come to grips with the possibilities of “it will make a good story later,” you can begin to develop both a habit of attentiveness and a new perspective on what makes you truly the writer you are, with stories only you can tell.
Life’s interruptions to routine can be a creative gift to you. They put you in new places with access to new relationships and experiences. They force you to understand suffering, fear, frustration, anger, sorrow, and all other shades of negative emotion necessary to create deeply real characters that readers connect with.
Don’t panic when life interrupts your writing routine. Pay attention. It will make a good story later.
What hardships have made you the writer you are? What storytelling mentor has shaped your approach and how?