don’t reinvent me

story structure Jul 19, 2021

Whenever someone joins my mailing list, I send them a brief survey so I can hear what their most burning questions about writing might be.

You’ve probably taken this survey yourself. (If you haven’t, please do! Here’s the link.)

Do you wonder what most writers say? Well, I’ll tell you. Overwhelmingly, writers want help with two things:

  • Discipline. They want to write but simply don’t. They give reasons, but the self-diagnosis is always this: A lack of discipline.
  • Story structure. Creative people are full of ideas. However, as most of us have discovered the hard way, an idea for a story is not the same thing as a fully developed plot with beginning, middle, and end. 

These are the top two, without question. And they may sound like two different problems, but they’re not.

How so? Consider that it takes zero discipline to do things that you A) know how to do and B) that you know when to do (in other words, they’re habitual).

Like brushing your teeth. You know how, and you know when. Therefore, you do it without fail. No special discipline required.

It's when we don't know when or how to do something that it fails to get done.

Let’s take this statement apart:

First, the when: If we have no established habit of writing, there’s not a consistent, particular time or place or pattern of events that triggers it to begin. So it doesn’t, no matter what our good intentions may be. 

Why is it so hard to just do it? That brings us to:

The how. The real reason we can't commit to when is because we don’t know how. When the odds of struggle and failure are high, we resist. We procrastinate. We become “too busy” or “lack discipline” or concoct any number of excuses.

After all, who wants to struggle and fail? It feels bad. 

The solution is to learn how. Writers without a solid grasp of story structure are always starting from scratch. They imagine that this continual, anxious reinvention of the wheel is what creative work is supposed to feel like, but it’s not so.

If you know how to build a bookshelf, there’s no reinventing the wheel. You’ve done this before. You already have the right tools in your toolbox, and you know where to find your materials. You measure twice, cut once. You have a process. Every bookshelf you build will be different, but fundamentally, you’re ready to work.

And when you know you’re ready to work, you’re not so afraid to begin.

Story structure is teachable, and it’s learnable. But until we’ve learned it, we’re not fully ready to work. We use labels like “lack of discipline” or even “lack of talent” to describe our need for training, mentorship, and a tried-and-true process. 

Story structure is not a wheel you need to reinvent. You just have to learn to roll with it!

SAVE THE DATE! Enrollment for the fall offering of Path of the Storyteller’s flagship course in story structure and writing craft opens on August 25th. This transformational online course runs for fifteen weeks, from September 2nd through December 16th, with weekly lessons, writing assignments, a private community space for sharing work and weekly live coaching with Maryrose. Make sure to join the mailing list below and watch your inbox for details.

Good writing is my jam! Put me on the mailing list, please.


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