How often I’ve seen the image lodged in my brain. Someone is standing beyond a fork in the road, alone and presumably dismayed, studying the divergent routes. Looking back at the place where the road breaks off to take a completely different trajectory, I can hear the familiar person mutter, ‘but I’d planned to go this way!’
As James Barrie (Peter Pan’s creator) stated so well, it’s a major contest to reconcile the life story we wrote in our heads with the one that seemed to write itself. Yes, a huge contest with ourselves, but surely one that if met on a dare, can show us things we never even dreamed might be there in that first narrative about ‘us’ we made up so long ago. We mustn’t let those old assumptions bully us. We might not have had much trouble letting go of some of the fictions—Princess, or Olympic gold medalist come quickly to mind—but broader types such as mother of many or accomplished business executive with undeniable expertise are harder to let go of. I believe it’s because we don’t actually know what we want when we start the narrative, so the story telling becomes muddled in the middle.
We writers know that problem intimately when we write a novel. The great muddy middle haunts us because our characters don’t really know what they want (the author often in denial about the role they play in that conundrum), making it impossible to get ‘IT’. But do we really want ‘IT’? Robert Fritz, in his book called Your Life as Art, tells us if we go after ‘IT’, we’ll be sorely disappointed. What we’re after isn’t conditional and has to come from inside.