Narrative is capable of inspiring insight that rationality alone is not. For example, in my project tracker I list the name of the project, assign it a rating ( – – , – , +/- , + or ++ ), and state either the next action or the primary thing I need to focus on. The entry for my short-form writing currently looks like this:
> Short-Form Writing ( + ): Noodle more – be prepared and unafraid to think wrong and wonder aloud.
I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s not much narrative there. It’s relatively on-the-nose. Contrast this with a recent experiment by Venkatesh Rao:
As an outsider, which projects can you more easily grasp the essence of? Mine, which are described with a harsh utility, or Venkat’s, which come complete with cultural references and a narrative framework to aid comprehension? The latter, I bet.
Recently, I described the simplest of life-management strategies—the regular statement, assessment and adaptation of place and path, of where you are and where you’re heading. Again, a strategy relatively devoid of narrative. But yesterday, as I was playing around with how to visually represent my projects, processes and priority, I stumbled upon a narrative frame for this life management strategy—a puzzle.
What are the elements of a puzzle? First, there is the picture you’re trying to create. Second, there is the pieces of the jigsaw that combine to make said image. And third, there is the act of searching for and slotting together the individual pieces to make that final image. Sound like life management? Imagine the desired outcome, determine the pieces required to make it a reality, then go about slotting them together.
Life, in this sense, really is a puzzle.