Here we are at the beginning of a new year, a time when people celebrate with crazy parties and sometimes crazy activities.
So what’s the celebration all about? Are we just glad the last year is behind us? That may be part of it, but the biggie is this: starting with a blank slate.
Tabula rasa is Latin for “clean slate,” and we all love one of those. At least we love the idea of a blank slate, because it holds the promise of anything.
Next to the markers is a note: This is your white board and these are your markers. Use them to write a good story. And enjoy the process!
With that encouragement in mind you pick up a marker, look at it, and begin to think about the coming year.
What will you put on the board first? Is it a great big 2022 at the top? Do you then start with words? Are those words a list? Perhaps they are goals. Places to go, people to visit, good to do.
Hint: do not write resolutions. They may be part of the story, but they aren’t the story.
The beauty of a blank slate is often opposed by the challenge of a blank slate. “Where do I begin?”
Artists of all kinds can be “blocked” by having too many choices. It’s one reason why preachers do series of sermons, why TV shows have an arc, and why painters gravitate to portraits or landscapes.
If you don’t know where to start, just write something. Just draw something. There is power in inertia. Get the motion going, and a direction will be discovered.
Out of the random
As you begin to fill the slate (By the way, which color are you using? Are you using more than one?)
As I was saying, as you begin to fill the slate you will see themes emerging. Pay attention to those, because they could become plot points in your story.
What you are writing really is your desired story for the next year. This is your chance to make it a good one. The great books, the great stories, are the ones you can read over and over, still learn from, and still enjoy.
The really good ones make us feel, and they help us grow. Write or draw your 2022 story like that. Here’s how.
Create a good story
My songwriting partner and I have conducted a number of seminars around the country, and at one of those someone asked, “How can I write a hit song?”
I said that no one knows the answer, but I can tell you how to write a good song. It should be able to survive multiple singers, multiple arrangements, and multiple years. “Write those songs” I said, “and let the hits take care of themselves.”
There are other ingredients, of course, but the best songs are like that. Think of the number of singers who have recorded Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The list includes the iconic Judy Garland, but it also includes Ariana Grande, Willie Nelson, and Iz.
In addition to surviving all those singers, arrangements, and years, Rainbow is a song that gives hope.
When you are writing a story the same ideas apply. This is your story. Write it so others can tell it. Write it so it will last for years and years. Most of all write it so that it includes hope. Take a look at the accompanying poster for inspiration.
Since this is going to be non-fiction, begin with the end in mind (somewhere over the rainbow?), then work your way back from there to your starting point: today.
Have you ever started watching a new TV series and then stopped because you didn’t like the characters? Or even one character who wasn’t the bad guy?
I’m guessing your answer is yes, which is why TV writers work so hard to make sure the main characters are likeable, and actors work so hard to add to that likeability.
So you want to have a cast of regular characters that are likeable. And that begins with you.
Make yourself likeable in your story — and in the corresponding real life — and the story has a much better chance of being a hit. Of course your likeability has to be authentic. If you are being “fake” in any way, everyone will know. In fact, authenticity is a huge part of being likeable. No one wants to have to figure out who you are every time they meet you.
Another regular activity at the end of each year is listing all of the famous people who died in the previous year. One of those still fresh in many minds is John Madden, and his life is a great model for you to follow for your 2022 story.
Here is just one of the hundreds of tributes to John sent out at the news of his death at age 85. It comes from Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
If you knew John, he made your life better. For me he was a trusted confidant, advisor, a teacher and above all, a very dear friend. When he walked into the room, it was a better day. When he talked, you listened and you learned. When he laughed, everyone in the room laughed. And when he got back on the bus to leave, you always wanted more. You were always looking forward to his next visit.
Be like that, and your story will be incredible! I already can’t wait to hear it.
Do good. It’s in you.