March 10, 2013

The Power of Ruling Things Out/Rules of Storytelling

gentle way?

I recently read a post from Emma Coates, Pixar's story artist about the rules of Storytelling.  I have talked before about how one big part I like about medicine is the stories I get to hear/get to be a part of because of it.  I have been exploring writing my own experiences with medicine, but I have yet to branch into non-fiction as a way of processing these stories.  I recently read an amazing article by Dr. Jay Baruch where he writes stories about how patient encounters could have gone if he had made other decisions in order to process his decisions.  In the article I mentioned, he tells a story of deciding NOT to treat a man with gunshot wounds to the chest because the patient keeps yelling at him and calling him a Douchebag (the title of the story is Dr. Douchebag).  

What I like about writing techniques is that they can also often be techniques to process your own life.  Take Coates' rule #9, "When you're stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next" 

This can definitely be applied in our own lives - my version of this is:

if you don't know what you want, start with what you KNOW you DON'T WANT

This can also get pretty silly - as in,  well I know I don't want it to start pouring rain and ice while we're standing here talking about it.  (this can turn into the very helpful exercise of "it could be much worse") But it can also help one to choose a path as in, I don't want to do my residency training in Texas (no offense to the Big State, it's just not for me right now).  For me, the possibilities of things I would probably be really happy doing can sometimes seem endless, which means that I have no idea where to begin.  Sometimes the only strong feelings I can get are "well, no I don't want THAT" which end up being incredibly revealing of what I DO want. 

Things I DON'T WANT in my life right now  --- what it reveals that I do want
1. worrying about things I can't control ---  to do more yoga/focus on having faith
2. being too tired that I can't enjoy things --- to rest, get enough sleep, focus energy on what I enjoy
3. feeling like I don't have enough time with people I love ----; to spend time with the people I care about

To keep you thinking of writing rules as life guidance, some of my other favorites from Coates:
*Pull apart the stories you like.  What you like in them is part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it. (for example, this list of 10 young adult novels with strong female heroines)

*Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.


"from the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking step into the sun,
there's more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done"
-the Lion King, Circle of Life
(great song, surprisingly super profound)

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