Here’s a particularly interesting piece by Steven Pressfield about theme–specifically, what is the theme of your life? He posits that by looking at the books you’ve written, or the art you’ve created, that you should be able to make out a theme for your life, and/or understand your destiny. “…we discover who we are, not just by our actions … but, if we’re artists, by the works we produce.”
Pressfield’s blog post was sparked by watching a documentary on Tony Robbins of “Walking on Fire” fame. Years ago when I lived in northern California, I participated in a fire walk (on two different occasions. I never said I was sane…) although not as part of Robbins’s massive event. The workshop (for lack of a better word) was more personalized, and extremely powerful. Every participant walked away (pun alert) from the experience with the belief that they could accomplish anything.
And no, none of us had to go to the hospital 🙂 I was working at a winery in the Dry Creek Valley at the time and mentioned it to some customers the day after. One of them, a big, burly dude who was obviously a skeptic asked if he could see my feet. I showed him. I’m not sure he believed me, but he was surprised there weren’t any blisters.
Anyway, back to theme. I’ve always been passionate about human rights, protecting the innocent, and choosing courage over fear, even when fear is the predominant emotion. I’m also interested in exploring forgiveness and unconditional acceptance, and why so many seem to have a problem with putting those concepts into play (myself included). And, when and why do people “do the right thing” over the most expedient thing. These themes have all emerged in my writing, and I’m even more committed to exploring my relationship to each. Part of this is certainly based on the way I was raised, and part is from what I’ve experienced so far in life.
Eleven years ago (give or take) I began work on my first novel. Since then, I’ve discovered more about myself through writing than I probably would have from a daily psychotherapy session. Let me tell you–it’s been an interesting trip.
Not all of it has been pleasant. But all of it has been valuable. I realized that I do my best work when something pisses me off, igniting a fire inside of me. Talk about having access to a LOT of raw material these days…
So my question to you is, what is the theme of your life? What’s important to you, and do you bring that out in your work (whether you consider yourself an artist or not)? Do you believe you’re here for a reason? Or are we all just a bunch of random cells smashed together in this space and time and will all disintegrate when we die?
Remember: there are no wrong answers 🙂
Yvonne Hertzberger says
It’s an interesting question. I know that I am passionate about justice, equality and the freedom to become who you want to be. Those themes do show in my novels. Maybe I should pay more attention.
I certainly see those themes in your writing, Yvonne. And not only in your books.
Yvonne Hertzberger says
Thank you. I take that as a supreme compliment. 🙂
There are themes in my work, but like the ‘gender doesn’t matter’ theme from Vokhtah, I’m usually unaware of them until after the story is written. As I’m a pantster [more or less] that’s probably not surprising. 🙂
I get that. I’m somewhere between a pantser and a plotter and I rarely think of theme when I’m writing a novel. But it always comes through at the end. I think theme just is. Sure, you can write with an eye toward bringing it out in your work, but I think the best part is when it’s unplanned.
I agree! Just as we put a bit of ourselves into everything we write, I think we also put a bit of what’s most important to us in there as well.
Polly Iyer says
One reviewer, in particular, nailed my long-running theme after bingeing on my books. She said I make heroes out of damaged people. That’s as close as anything I could come up with. I like to play with expectations, and besides, perfection is overrated..
Couldn’t agree more, Polly.You do it well 🙂
This is really interesting DV. I’m going to ponder and get back to you; it might be a little early in my ventures for me to identify a theme. ?
How about nurturing/growing positivity? Your garden speaks volumes. And then there’s bringing more beauty into the world with your jewelry. And, of course, making your piece of the world brighter with your recent blog posts 😀
Blimey – you should be a life coach!! That’s amazingly kind. I think I might have to tell all my friends !! I have pretty well always tried to leave everywhere / one a little brighter than when I arrived. Thank you.
Fascinating piece, DV. Made me realize that my novels all have underlying themes of trust, taking responsibility for your own actions and how you can never really know another person. I’ve always been fascinated by what motivates people to do what they do (good or bad) and I guess these themes evolve from that.
Oooh–those are great themes–especially for mysteries and thrillers! I’m fascinated by the same things-studying people is always so interesting 🙂 The theme of never really knowing another person tells me you have the basis for an unreliable narrator in your stories, perhaps?
You raise an interesting point – for some reason I’ve never really thought of any of my characters in terms of being an unreliable narrator, though I do like to keep readers wondering whether all is as it seems.
Jeri Walker (@JeriWB) says
Great question. As I try to wrap my head around whether or not to try my hand at memoir, the theme of my life is undoubtedly resilience. That word fits so well I am planning on getting “resilient” it tattooed between my shoulder blades. I also want to explore that with fiction as well by creating characters that bounce back in the face of traumatic events.
Resilience-what a great theme. And a great tat, as well! I’d be first in line to read your memoir, Jeri.
I’m listening to an interesting audio book called, “Destiny of Souls” by Michael Newton, (It’s a follow on to his book “Journey of Souls”.) Just today he was talking about aura colors and how they indicate something about your soul’s identity. I have no idea what color mine is. But after thinking about your question, it is probably the color of a teacher because I see that theme in every one of my books! Thanks for helping me understand more about myself.
By the way15 years ago I would have thought all this talk of metaphysics was foo-foo nonsense. Now after the decade and a half of learning and reading, I realize if someone poo-poos the metaphysical as imagination, they just haven’t read enough. There’s plenty of credible authors who’ve written about their unworldly experiences.
Interesting, MJ. I’ve always believed in past lives (as Pressfield states in his post) and various other metaphysical things mainly because it’s more fun for me to believe that they’re true, but also because of experiences I’ve had for which I haven’t yet found a “reasonable” explanation. The aura thing could be true. I have no reason to believe it isn’t. I think that as learners we have to sift through our experiences and choose what works for us. There’s room for all kinds of beliefs. Not every one is going to agree on the best, “most correct” belief system, thank goodness (although there are some who try to strong arm others into believing as they do). I wouldn’t want to live in a world that boring.
Yeah, I guess I’m late to the party. But as a teacher, I think it’s beneficial for me to understand the mindset of my students, and to know at least one possible path that can get them from where they are (where I was) to where I am currently. Does this make sense?