The First in a Series on What Elevates a Story to Greatness
In virtually every field of endeavor you can name, scrutiny shows us that the great ones think differently than the rest of us.
They may outperform us, too, but rest assured, before that happened they thought differently. Almost without exception.
This notion struck me today as I was reading Where Men Win Glory, the incredible (and bestselling) story of the life and death of Pat Tillman, written by ace investigative journalist Jon Krakauer.
If you don’t know who Pat Tillman was, welcome back from the island you’ve been on for the past six years.
Tillman wasn’t like the rest of us.
How he thought was what made him the alpha male in every social structure he ever encountered. Read Krakauer’s book, you’ll see that you’ve probably never known anyone quite like Pat Tillman.
The way Tillman thought was what made him a high school football phenom, a major college star, and then an NFL standout… all after being told by his freshman football coach that he was too small, that football was not his game and he should give it up before somebody hurts him.
It wasn’t his athletic talent, which was substantial. That level of talent is actually more common than you might assume. What made him great was the way he thought.
It’s also what got him killed.
Courage, honor and a sense of duty – all of which are the consequences of thought – pulled him away from the money and fame of his career to serve his country. This same way of thinking caused him to be the first out of the Humvee to charge a hill in support of his brother and his peers as they were being attacked by Afghani insurgents. And then, shot by friendly fire in a cluster-f**k of historic proportions.
Tillman was a hero. A martyr. An honorable man. All because of how he thought.
He wasn’t perfect. Not by a mile. But one thing is true: how he thought was the primary determinant of his fate.
As it is for all of us.
Virtually every high achiever becomes great as much for how they think as their blessings of talent, resources and opportunity. For every familiar name in any field you can name, there are many equally-gifted others who didn’t reach that level of success… also precisely because of how they think.
Which begs the question – how do you think about your stories?
Imagine what we could achieve if we thought differently?
For writers, as well as many pursuits, this breaks down into two realms.
First, there is the focus, discipline, determination and sheer will of those who achieve great things. The grit of champions. The tireless work ethic of the over-achiever. These qualities totally apply to this discussion, because they are indeed part of the essential criteria for greatness.
But that’s not what this is about. That’s an entire wing of locker room speeches at Barnes & Noble.
No, I’m talking about how we think about our stories. How we see them, approach them, nurture them and care for them.
How thinking translates into a storytelling sensibility.
Great writers give us more than execution and pretty prose. More than four contextual parts and a killer first plot point. More than a great idea that evolves into a compelling concept.
They give us heart and soul.
They give us goosebumps. Sleepless nights. Hormonal surges. They give us love and truth and insight and hope and courage. They make us feel alive, as if we are with them.
They give us the ride of our lives, all from our favorite reading chair.
How do they do that?
Because they think differently than the rest of us who write stories.
Rest assured, this isn’t just about their virtues and values and their strong will. It’s also very much about how these winners think smart. It’s about storytelling enlightenment, their understanding of the subtle nuances and tipping points of their work.
We can do that, too.
We can choose to think differently about our stories. Over and above and beyond what we’ve been learning about structure and storytelling principles.
Those are just the ante-in.
To reach our highest writing goals, we need to somehow elevate our work to that heart and soul and goosebump place.
To know what they know. And then, to think about storytelling as they do.
The next few posts here on Storyfix.com will show us some ways to do just that.
Please check out my new novel at www.whisperofthesevenththunder.com.
(Yep, Storyfix is an Amazon affiliate.)