When I watched an old documentary recently regarding the supergroup Metallica, I saw James Hetfield talking about “the biggest chapter of his life”, and it got me to thinking. Is there really such a thing as chapters in our life? If you consider your life as a story – a story worth telling, then one would reason similarly, that there is a start and an end and a middle, there will be an introduction that will wet the appetite, a slow beginning building to a peak through immense hardship and struggle (perhaps this is the biggest chapter we speak of?), likeable and unique characters, and ‘coming out’ with new understandings, age, perspectives, and some form of resolution to complete the tale into a work of excellence that other readers may wish they were part of (hard covered and leather bound no doubt!).
And so I must ask, is it this biggest chapter we seek, is this the point of our glorious journey, the pinnacle of our lives? Napolean Hill spoke all those years ago (1937) of the most productive times presenting for men and women between 40 and 60 years of age. I wonder as I too grow older, with an increasingly ageing population, if these old writings would be updated for today. So that the most productive opportunity Mr Hill spoke of would instead present between 50 and 70 years of age? Or, with more questions yet, could we say it is true that all our adult years present the same opportunity with the difference instead, being our understanding and assimilation of said situations – our abilities to capitalise? And could this recognition mean that any particular chapter we are in could be the biggest yet? Dianne Bletter offers us a ten step recipe for doing just that in her:
Ten Ways To Make This Your Best Chapter
1. Who you are is life’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift back to life.
2. To be more you, be less you.
3. Your personal record is against yourself and nobody else.
4. Fear is Forgetting Everything’s All Right
5. Put gratitude in your attitude.
6. Live in day-tight compartments.
7. When agitated, pause and breathe deep.
8. Focus on the solution and not the problem.
9. Take care of your mind, heart, body and soul each day.
10. You only get to live once and if you do it right, that’s enough.
While chapters are by necessity, part of an unfolding story and therefore connected in this way, each chapter itself has the same start and a middle and an end, a similar point of difference or message, a learning outcome and a resolution – a mini story if you will. According to good writing theory, a great chapter includes a curious first few lines, an invitation to be drawn in to the adventure, tension without immediate resolve, more questions than answers and, a way out. Though not an end unto itself, each chapter except the last offer more of a pathway into the ongoing challenges of what we affectionately refer to as our life story (the next chapter).
And although much of my work is around life as a continuum, chapter awareness may seem opposed to this philosophical view. But there are no real definitions here. It is instead, a call for awareness. Most often, when we do recognise defined chapter boundaries it is only in retrospect, not in the ‘writing’. But perhaps these considerations can be of use while we are living our chapters too? Regardless of where the start and ends may naturally occur, a little creative license may offer us benefits previously thought of as unattainable. After all, chapters which are too brief, uninteresting, far too long, directionless, meaningless or boring, poorly written, poorly conceived, badly placed, or at the very least, with no great characters, inspire us only, to return the book to the shelf! Not helping.
So, using writing analogies for example, let us consider the chapter we are now in well before it becomes a past event. Let us ask pertinent questions and then articulate our responses knowing that what happens next is still in the ‘writing’.
what happens next is still in the writing
• Is this chapter rising in excitement, meaning, and pace.
• If not, is it peaking now or already slowed and drawing heavy in need of immediate resolution?
• What is the message of this chapter and where will it lead us to in the next one?
• Will this chapter close abruptly launching into unexplored and uncomfortable but necessary and adventurous territories?
• Or will it lower us gently preparing us well for a deeper period of self-exploration and inner growing?
It can be disconcerting and exciting all at once to consider the power you have as the author of your own story (chapter). Accept it with pride and write well, after all, no one knows this story but you and what happens next, is still in the ‘writing’.
what happens next is still in the writing
Berlinger, J, Sinofsky, B, 2005, Some Kind of Monster, Paramount Pictures, USA
Bletter, D, 2011-2012, The Best Chapter, http://thebestchapter.com/abou/, viewed April 2014
Hill, N, 2008, Think and Grow Rich, Wilder Publications