A storyline is a fluid decision filter. (I’m going through Donald Miller‘s storyline conference).

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time making decisions. I believe that most Generation Xers do. It’s perhaps because our parents allowed us so much freedom.

Instead of handing us a canvas and saying, “paint this”, our parents said, “Anything is the canvas. Everything is the paint. You can do anything!”

They were being generous and kind. We were just overwhelmed with the bigness of it.

Isn’t it nice to go to places like Europe and have just two or three choices and not hundreds?

The effort of decision is one of the greatest time-wasters of all-time. Those who are great, don’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing. They act. They do. They go. Failure is a given that is taken in stride.

So. This idea of using my storyline as a decision filter is pretty inviting. I could use a decision filter. I could use some “policies” that help me to say ‘yes’ to this and ‘no’ to that.

And really, isn’t that a definition of creating? From dividing the light from the darkness or the water from the land, or choosing this canvas over that one and those colors instead of these, or dividing the notes from the silence and placing them on the paper.

Creation is a series of decisions.

Donald says,

When we live in reaction we spend an enormous amount of time managing relationships and tasks that don’t come from our central passions and so don’t belong in our stories. As you create your Storyline, you’ll also be creating a decision filter through which you can edit your life. Some tasks will naturally fall away, and even some relationships will change so they are no longer taking up your emotional space. In stories and in life, less is often more.

Paul and I once had a conversation with someone who is hugely successful. He shared with us in many ways, but the sentence that stayed with me was…

Most people can only do one thing well. Very few people can manage two. What is that one thing you want to do?

What is the one thing I want to do? Write.

But I also want to romance my husband and homeschool my kids and be a fun mom and play sports and make sure my girls have every opportunity within our power to offer and be a good friend and a good sister and a good daughter and I want to make my home a home and cook delicious meals and fill it with beautiful things and dress nice and have my hair look good and exercise and …

Come on, women, I know I’m not alone in this. Don’t you feel the pressure to be everything? And what about men? Our generation has seen more men than ever sharing the load that was once “women’s work”. Does that exhaustion hit them too? And do you often ask,

Which item am I going to drop today?

Because to keep them all juggling is feat of acrobatic prowess. Problem is … one wrench thrown in on the business and it all comes tumbling down.

Donald says,

A story is simply a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. It’s not that hard, actually. What’s hard is keeping all the stuff out of the story that shouldn’t be there. Many writers will turn in a manuscript with twice as many words as the final story. The secondary process of writing is all about editing.

So it follows we have to edit our life too.

But not on a rigid outline, because the creative process can get bound up if we’re too structured.  We have to let the characters in our lives speak for themselves and pursue their own ambitions, but we have to keep the story on the path we’ve chosen.

Therefore, we need a fluid decision filter.

Something that acts as a guide, but allows for the spontaneous and the spark of destiny to enter.

I want to write. But that’s not all I am. Writers don’t live in a vacuüm. They are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends. But if I want to write, maybe I must say ‘no’ to Sunday school teacher or full-time teacher or part-time teacher. Maybe I have to say ‘no’ to too many excursions with friends or being completely in charge of the housework. My house might never get decorated. My wardrobe may be lacking.

Life is about choices. Saying ‘yes’ to this means ‘no’ to that sometimes. We are extremely blessed to have these choices at all.

Donald starts us off on this exercise by having us list the main roles you play in life. Since I’m a female, my choices include these: mother, sister, friend, employee, wife, daughter, boss, business owner, physical being, spiritual being, athlete, artist, writer, gardener, etc.

Of course, like the good Protestant girl my mother brought up, my first role should be ‘spiritual being’.

But I’m not going to follow that inclination.


Because I don’t like to compartmentalize it. I don’t want God to be a box I check off each day. I love Him. I seek to know Him. But I’m here in this world with duties and desires and dreams.

I hope He infuses every role I must fill while walking this earth. I hope He doesn’t get the top box in my life but saturates every part of my life.

After listing the roles, we’re should follow it with the ambitions we have as we fill this role.

An interesting story is simply a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

1. Writer: I want to write. I want to get paid to write. I want my writing to matter. I want to influence. I want a say in the world. My writing ambitions are to clarify my blogs and their corresponding audiences so they can find each other. I’m doing the writing. I need to do the clarifying. Working on that.

On the fiction side of things — I must find time for the creative side: my middle grade novel is stalled … again. I need to finish the first draft and not get bogged down in analyzing it too much. I tend to edit as I write. When going for great novel, I must not get bound up in the process. Write it all. Fix it later.

I just became inspired with a children’s book idea. Should I get sidetracked and follow this path or stay on the main course?

2. Wife: I want to love Paul and excite him. I want to be beautiful, to turn his head. I want to be his best friend and companion. I hope to keep up with him, even challenge him. My goal as a wife is to be easy to love and hard to leave.

Not in a fearful-anxious-striving-to-please sort of way, but just an honest want to please the one I love.

And … I hope to be less critical and more supportive. Let Paul be Paul and me be me. To respect who he is and respect who I am.

3. Mother: I’m strong on the teaching side. I could improve on the fun side. Since I’m writing a lot, I’m in deep thought a lot. I want to be present when I’m with them. Remember to greet them with kisses in the morning and bless them with prayers at night. I want to notice when they withdraw and interrupt their thoughts with hugs and listening. I want to partner with them in their growing up.

4. Friend: I debated between this slot being “daughter” or “sister”, but I was able to solve it with “friend” because my family members are included. Ambitions: This sounds selfish, but I want to receive from these people. I admire them. I want to learn from them. I want to glean what they have to offer. My life involves a lot of producing — writing, homeschooling, teaching, tutoring, cooking, scheduling, etc. My friends offer me a chance to rejuvenate and regenerate. I hope that I also can give to them — that I’m a good listener, that I offer advice prayerfully and cautiously, and that I’m just plain ol’ fun.