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Finding the truth inside my work

Today I was working on my story about Chinese tea merchants during the Opium War. The father of the family was refusing to act–potentially sending his family into bankruptcy and disaster. But as I read over the story, I began to wonder: would he really do that?

Would he actually refuse loans from other tea merchants? Especially when his family would go under?

The thing was… I needed the father to refuse to act–or the whole story would have to change. His son was about to make a tough decision that would drive the whole story. And for that to happen, he needed his father to be stuck.

So, I was tempted to just list a bunch of reasons for the father to resist action, pick the best one, and forge ahead. BUT… I was also aware that this father is a whole person with his own interior world. And everything he did had to be in integrity with who he was… or the story would feel hollow and forced.

Yes, we get to play God(dess) when we do our creative work. But there’s a bigger truth than what we put on the page (or screen or canvas). And our work needs to be in integrity with that bigger truth.

So I slowed down and let myself sink in, feel who he was, and truly understand what was happening for him. And the story changed and deepened.

This is how we do our best work.

Sometimes action and speed are crucial. At other times, we slow down to find the truth. What is our true creative work? Who is this character, really? What’s actually happening in this scene? How does the movement of this sculpture or film or choreography want to unfold?

Where in your creative work or life is it time to slow down?

What is the truth waiting that’s waiting to emerge?

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