During the pre-conference workshop at Realm Makers, the infamous James L. Rubart (The Chair, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, Soul’s Gate; co-owner of The Rubart Writing Academy) spoke about branding and marketing—for authors, their stories, and their websites.
You want to talk about a firehose of information? That was this class (and pretty much every session all weekend!) Let’s just say I am so thankful for the replays, because I couldn’t write notes fast enough or possibly hope to absorb all of the things!
But one topic during that workshop that stuck with me all that weekend and stewed in the back of my mind ever since I got back was what he called ‘the theme of your life’, or your identity—at least in regards to the kinds of stories you write.
This is a thing I have been struggling with ever since I learned about themes in a ‘how-to’ book about writing. I could never answer that question: “What’s the theme of your story?” Basically, what’s the lesson? The moral? The take-away?
While I get mixed messages from writers who, on one hand, say that your story needs to have a theme and on the other hand say to just write something beautiful and leave the rest to God and the reader, I couldn’t help but think that if I had that one anchoring idea, I would feel less like I’m floating around aimlessly.
So when Rubart gave us an exercise to help us figure out what that ‘theme of our life’ was, I dove in. What he had us do? List 3 (or in other instances 10) of our favorite movies, then find the common themes in all of them, and that was our theme.
Basically, narrowing down what it is about a story that resonates with us.
I had a really hard time keeping it to movies, I’ll be honest, but here is the list I jotted down:
- A Silent Voice
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Tarzan (Disney’s, from 1999)
- Treasure Planet
We didn’t have enough time for this sluggish thinker to properly mull over the movies I like best, or even hit on the right idea at the time, but it got the juices flowing. The common themes that these stories have, besides the fact that they’re all animated, is that they’re all stories about lonely souls—outcasts, broken spirits—who find a people, a place, to belong to. At their core, at least how I’ve come to see it, they are stories about the lost finding a way home again.
And when I think about that, I can only say, “That’s exactly it.” Most all the stories that I’ve come to love have an element of someone connecting with others and gaining that sense of belonging.
Which, to my mind, is the very definition of ‘home’. It’s a thing that I cherish, can’t get enough of, and long for whether I’m out all day, hear a particular piece of music, smell a particular scent, or see an ethereal sunset. I love my home here on this Earth, but I also yearn for my home with Christ in the new Earth. I treasure my time here, but simultaneously I can’t wait to go there. To go home where I belong, where Jesus is preparing a place for me.
“Home” is the beat of my heart.
Discovering that, pinpointing it, just realizing what it is about certain stories that speaks to my heart, was so refreshing! It was like finding the blueprints to a house I was trying to build based on the vague concept of what it should look like.
With my stories, and likewise with my cooking, I want to share with others the goodness of community, that no one is truly alone, and that home is waiting with open arms. After all, adventures are fun and saving the world is great, but there’s nothing quite like coming back to the hearth—to family, whether by blood or by bond—at the end of a long journey.
So I’m curious, friends. What are 3 of YOUR favorite movies, and what themes do they have in common? It could be that is what you’re all about.