When novelists sit down to write a narrative, there is a question they ask themselves in order to create exciting and meaningful stories, and that same question can also create a more exciting and meaningful life. That question is: What if?
J.R.R. Tolkien once asked the question What if there existed a place called Middle Earth, and What if Middle Earth were under threat? Every good story begins with some form of this question, and so does every life.
Whenever a novel starts to drag, the writer simply has to ask this question, and suddenly life gets exciting again. What if there were a car accident, what if my protagonist won the lottery, what if my protagonist came home and his wife had left with all the furniture? A series of these questions will dislodge whatever fascinating thing is going to happen next in the story.
Now to be sure, you don’t have the power to win the lottery and I don’t recommend getting in a car wreck, but within limits, the question What if? can radically change our story and our lives.
Several years ago, I asked the question What if the 360,000 churches in America could each have a mentoring program and out of that question came one of the most exciting adventures in my life, The Mentoring Project. Bill Hybles once asked What if there were a church in this field? Rick Warren asked What if we could bring peace to the continent of Africa? Out of these questions came stories that have positively affected millions.
What if you asked yourself a series of these questions? What if you got out a yellow pad and wrote down a few story turns that you could engage? What if you ran a marathon? What if you renewed your marriage vows? What if you quit your job? What if you brought home a puppy today? What if you and your family adopted a child?
If your story has gotten boring, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself the what if question. Try this, in the comment box, just brainstorm five what if questions as fast as you can. Try to to take the suggestion seriously, but do it fast. What will begin to happen is you’ll begin to dream, you’ll stop thinking of life as stagnant, and you’ll be reminded that life, for the most part, is what you make of it.