Keep Moving Forward

song in my head — “Diamonds” by The Boxer Rebellion

"When I grow up, I want to be..."

But what does it even mean to grown up?

The truth is, we're never fully grown, never finished learning and discovering. Or at least we shouldn't be.

In the depths of our souls, in the quiet places of our inner lives, a longing for progression and growth burns on. Our ideal state of mind, as the Robinsons put it, is to "keep moving forward." When we keep moving forward, failure is a welcomed teacher, and the process outweighs the destination.

Setting goals and resolutions is great, but building systems and processes is better, especially if those systems are tied to never "growing up," never being done with discovery.

So that dream you had when you were 15? That invention you sketch out when you were 21? The life you wanted when you were 8 and the world was full of possibility? It’s all still obtainable, no matter how many calendars you've spent on this planet. And the opportunities of the internet and technology make such dreams and ideas more accessible than ever.

So what did you want to be when you grew up?

If you're still breathing, you're still growing. So go be it.

"Happiness is a byproduct, not an actual destination." — Jewel

—G

A Beacon of Light

song in my head — “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley

Why do I create?

I create because I have to. Storytelling is like oxygen to me, courses through my veins like blood. But plenty of artists say similar things. There are plenty of us out there who would say things like "I would write if no one read it" or "I would still write if I didn't get paid."

But here's a little paradox I've discovered about myself.

I only write for myself, but I find it very hard to write if no one is listening.

What do I mean?

I write what’s inside of me in what I hope is a way that only I can. My inner imaginations and passions and voice are my fuel; nothing external like "the market" will inspire me to write something. I think stories are like puzzles, and that almost any idea that I chew on for a bit could be a story worth telling. Otherwise, why would it come to me? I'm so dedicated to this idea, in fact, that I have “stories” in my head that are only titles! I have no idea what the rest of the tale will be, but the title sparked something so deep in me that I can't and won't let it go. It's like a key that unlocks a box—I only have to find the box.

That said…

Though I may write for myself, I believe writing is communication above all else. I write to express and communicate my inner workings. So while I don't write for you—some imaginary audience member with market-tested tastes or who likes certain genres—I do write for You—that person out there who maybe, just maybe, sees the world a little bit like I do. I don't know who you are, or how many of you are out there, but my hope is that if I write enough words, if I spark enough fires and let the ashes float out into the ether, that someday we'll find each other.

What I'm doing here—scribbling down my thoughts every day, writing my fanciful stories—it's not a marketing strategy. It's a beacon of light in a dark forest; I'm lost, like you. But I'm finding a way.

Perhaps we can find our way together.

— G

The End

song in my head — “Duality” by Bayside

I opened things up with beginnings. Now let’s be devious and skip to the end.

There's a fundamental idea prevalent in modern storytelling which coincidently finds its origins in ancient forms of storytelling. Hollywood, in particular, loves this structure, and I'm sure you've experienced it, even if you think you haven't.

It’s called The Hero's Journey.

In short, if you've seen Star Wars, you've seen The Hero's Journey.

There are many steps on this path of the proverbial hero, and they go by many names. I’ll expound on them all at one point or another of this there is no doubt. However, today I want to focus on the last step: Returning With the Elixir. In other words: The End. The journey is complete. The hero has succeeded.

But what does it mean for the hero to return? And what exactly has she returned with?

It’s no big secret that storytelling in its many traditions has often been used as a proxy for real life, that the journeys and growths of fictional characters mirror our own lived experiences, and that by investing in their telling, we can come to understand ourselves better. In other words, if you’re breathing, you are the hero. You are on a quest, as uneventful an adventure it may sometimes seem. This life is your story.

Writers and creators hopefully understand this better than most, especially in regards to our craft. We set out on a quest from our Ordinary World into a New World, the world of our imagination, embarking with little or no idea as to where we are headed. We face dragons and obstacles and Resistance; we make friends with the fictions in our heads, and we fall in love; we reach the Point of No Return or The Dark Night of The Soul, and we press on anyway; we face death and are reborn. And when it’s all said and done, we return with a finished tale (the elixir.)

Now, if your someone who views your work solely as a product (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that), then the physical (or digital) output of your finished tale is most likely your elixir. It's the completed thing, the thing you’re ready to share.

But if you feel as I do that a story can be more, then perhaps the elixir itself is something more, something less tangible. Something magical and medicinal, as the name suggests. Something that helps and inspires others. Something that ultimately saves us all.

In the story (and in life), the hero doesn't always "return" precisely to the place or the community in which they began. But they do come back. They do find their tribe. They do deliver the goods.

For heroes as for writers, you don't always have to go home again. But you do have to return.

Because the world needs what you're bringing with you.

— G