The Academy Award winning screenwriter Paddy Cheyefsky (Marty and Network) once said that “As soon as I figure out the theme of my play, I type it out in one line and Scotch-tape it to the front of my typewriter. After that, nothing goes into the play that isn’t on-theme.”
Thinking about theme is a great way to pull together your writing and give it power and purpose. But what if we applied this to our lives? If every day, or once a week, or once a month we thought, “What is the theme of my life?” Then we tried to articulate it and write it down, could this give us more focus?
This is different than trying to figure out our purpose, or what we are meant to do. Often, this thinking leads us to a dead end, a life of stagnation. We hope to be hit with our purpose by some outer force. Where as theme is more open. It develops over time.
Theme is trying to connect the dots of our past with a future that we want. If we look back on the whole of our lives after we pass, what does that story tell us? What do we want it to say? In this way we can start to shape a future that we can be proud of, no matter what our past holds. The changes we make now define the totality of the theme of our lives.
We may never come up with a one-liner that we can hold onto for the rest of our lives. Themes can evolve. But we can create more control and confidence in living if we put effort into thinking about the theme of our lives. What’s your theme?