Once upon a time I read/heard a quote about how in a writer's career, they're only really trying to write one or two stories, it just comes out in different ways each time. I'm sure the real quote said it more eloquently, but after searching on Google for a while and not finding it, I gave up the quest. J. said in class last semester that Steven Spielberg's films are mostly about the same thing - family and home.
I hadn't really thought about this too much in relation to my own writing, even though the quote had stuck. I definitely had similar strains in my writing, but it wasn't that I was writing about only one thing. But this weekend I was hanging out with a friend, and I said some cheesy line like, "Love is the most important thing" or something equally clumsy (this is why I'm a writer and not a public speaker or improvisational actress).
But later I was thinking about it, about the things that I've written and liked, the things I want to write, and I was surprised to realize that there were things that were in every one of my stories - love and death. I think I put love in there a little more intentionally (because clearly, I think it's the most important thing), but I was actually pretty surprised about how death is also a recurring theme, but in each story they seem to strike this balance with each other.
I think it all comes back to knowing what you want to write and why. Sometimes you start with a theme and build the story on it. Sometimes themes develop organically and then you have to figure out how to braid them and the story together. When we studied Jerry McGuire last semester, it was frightfully (to us students) obvious Cameron Crowe masterfully pointed every single line back to his themes. So this unconscious balance I've been striking between love and death is going to have to become a lot more intentional because your story is never going to be as strong as when you're writing each and every scene with your theme in mind.