REFLECTIONS

Your life’s story is a work in progress

What we are perceived as is often just working titles of your life

In Summary

• Things like 'poor, rich, unemployed, divorced, single...' should not define you

A stressed woman
A stressed woman
Image: COURTESY

I think writers get to look deeper into life. Perhaps writers even understand life a little more than most people because of what they do: write.

When I say writer, I mean writers of fiction — literary writers, popular fiction writers, poets, scriptwriters, playwrights, comic book writing.

Why do I say deeper, look and life in the same breath as writer? Here’s paraphrasis of how one character played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie ‘Shortcut to Happiness’ described what a writer does, what a writer is, “Being a writer means being someone who can look at the world and describe it simply, giving it a shape so that others can understand it. To tell others what they (writers) feel, what they believe, what reality looks like to them; this is what a writer does.”  

And it’s not just that, the tools, too, that writers use offer insights into life. One such tool is a working title.

No story is without a title, but what many people don’t know is that frequently, what came last in most of the stories you’ve read is the title. During the process of writing the story, however, there is a working title; a temporary title a writer uses while he, or she, is getting the words of the story down on the page. It is a ‘for now’ title before the story is complete.

There are a couple of good reasons why many writers don’t focus on title first before the story is done, why they use a working title instead. One is, coming up with a good title takes time and hard work. Time and hard work best spent writing the story. Secondly, a good title says what the story is, so how can you have a good title for a story that is yet to be written? The story comes first, title comes last because a story without a title is still a story, but a title alone is not a story at all.

Writing the title before the story can set limits to the tale, or unnecessary expectations. It makes the writing harder and even distorts the story’s natural progression. When you pin a title to a story that is not ready, you don’t leave room in your tale for spontaneity, happenstance, chance. You’ve locked yourself into a mind frame, tied yourself down to a title when you may well end up with a completely different story to the one you started with.

Like life, writing a story is a work in progress. It’s not finished yet, so you don’t have to pressure yourself trying to name it before it has come to an end. You don’t settle on a title for a story that could end up unrecognisable from the first draft, what it is now, and so a working title it is.

Titles like poor, rich, unemployed, divorced, single, a failure, a success; these are all working titles of the story of your life thus far. They’re not the title of your life’s story because you haven’t finished writing the story yet.      

Let your story take you where it will, right to the end, then you’ll have a title.