If being a musician has taught me anything, it’s that you need to constantly adjust to stay in tune. Everything is dynamic; your surroundings never stay the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re aware of it or not. Even if you tune your instrument perfectly at the beginning of a performance, you always need to keep adjusting because conditions are constantly in flux. Even ten or fifteen minutes later, something has changed. Maybe the temperature of the room is different, or you’re chops are getting tired, or you’ve been sitting the whole time at rest while other players are being featured … something has changed. You have to adjust or you’ll be out of tune. And that can throw everybody’s performance off.
The same is true with life. You’ve got to constantly adjust to stay in tune with your surroundings.
Not having studied writing formally, I don’t really know what I am doing. So I change my approach from time to time in an order to sort things out. I need to keep trying new things in order to find my voice. My current approach to fiction writing is trying to recognize the main building blocks of storytelling, and then attempting to keep them all in balance. Right now, I see the main building blocks as: dialogue, action, description, and reflection. It’s what some writers describe as paying attention to the white space on the page. A constant wall of text with too much description would not be very readable. Overuse of dialogue yields too much white space. Although that might make for a very cinematic scene, it leaves too much out for the reader. So it’s a constant process of attempting to keep it all in balance.
I believe this literary balancing act can work for real life as well. Description doesn’t fit here, but the other elements can all apply. Dialogue represents our engaging others—in conversations verbal and written. Action is the actual doing of things. Reflection is analyzing one’s life and finding ways to improve on it. And just like in fiction, the trick is keeping it all in balance. For myself, I know that I tend to focus too much on reflection. Dealing with depression makes one self-aware by nature, so I’ve got that one down. Trust me. I lack in action because of my tendency to procrastinate. Anyone that knows me can say that dialogue is not really my strong suit. So I’ve got some work to do if I want to keep these elements in equal focus.
Of course, life is complicated. I’m sure there are other fiction/life elements that can or should be included as well. What other elements do you think need to be included in this approach? What do you need to work on to keep everything in balance?