What’s The Story

This is a very old watercolor that I called The Inner Monologue

This is a very old watercolor that I called The Inner Monologue

All the ladies were talking about how their bodies have changed with age. My body has changed, too! You’d never know it now but I used to be less than two feet tall with really pudgy knees. Kerri punched me when I offered my perspective on my body change. Apparently there is a statute of limitation for how far back in time you can go on the my-body-has-changed conversation.

When I was studying acting we were taught to write backstories for our characters. The play script was filled with clues but we learned that a character is not 3 dimensional until it has an articulated history. This was always problematic for me. I had no problem creating a backstory – that was easy – and I could justify my imagined story happenings in the script – but I couldn’t see how my imagined story led to more specific actions in the performance. If anything, the backstory got in my way. Like all young actors I got lost in the backstory, trying to “tell” it rather than pursue my clear action. Acting, like life, is about the pursuit of desire. My backstory muddied my ability to act. Acting is an art form of the present moment.

When I was teaching acting I came across the same problem. The young actors would spend hours telling me the details of their backstory which only served to diffuse their present action. They’d try to perform their history instead of pursue their current target.

The backstory was interesting but functionally useless in the present moment.

I’m finding the same challenge off the stage as I found on it. In one form or another I’ve coached a lot of people. I hear a lot of backstories. Our backstories are interesting. They do what they are meant to do: they give us identity. We spend hours and hours telling each other about our past adventures and abuses. People are storytellers, telling the story of their lives all day, everyday. Most of the storytelling concerns the past. What we did or did not do, what was done to us or justifying what we did to others. Most backstories are about limitation. Most backstories have a root in fear that show up as “reasons why I can’t” stories. Do you remember the famous Richard Bach quote? Argue for your limitations and sure enough they are yours. As interesting and informing as it is, very little of the backstory is functionally useful in the present moment. I don’t want the person I was a decade ago defining the choices I make today.

It’s become something of a mantra for me, something I find myself writing or saying a lot: The actions we need to take are usually very simple. The story we wrap around them make them difficult. What’s the story?

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here for fine art prints of my paintings:

This painting is called Icarus.

This painting is called Icarus.

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