If you’ve been a writer for more than five minutes, no doubt you’ve been introduced to Joseph Campbell’s work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (If not, consider this your introduction. You’re welcome.) Campbell combines psychology with mythology to uncover the connections between folk tales told in different cultures across human history.
Through his research, Campbell found a standard set of archetypes in myths told around the world. In short, stories unfold in similar ways, no matter where they originated, because humans find these story structures the most satisfying. Storytellers have used these techniques for millennia.
So we writers often follow the Hero’s Journey for our characters, but what about ourselves? From time to time, we find ourselves mired in doubt and fear; we second guess; we lose our way. It can be difficult to summon the courage to keep typing, and it is sooo much easier to settle down to a Gilmore Girls marathon on Netflix with a bowl of chips and guacamole. (I’m just guessing.)
A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to attend a talk by author, editor, and coach Kendra Levin. She knows a thing or two about helping writers be confident and stay calm. In her new book, The Hero Is You, Kendra suggests that we can embark on the Hero’s Journey by placing ourselves as the hero of our own story. I’ve never thought about myself as the hero of my own story. Have you?
How can I apply this to my writing life? Heroes protect, serve, and sacrifice.
- Protect: My time, my ideas.
- Serve: The greater purpose, what I am trying to say to the world through my writing.
- Sacrifice: Gilmore Girls may have to wait.
It helps to create a realistic framework for how heroes do this.
- Track your progress. For me, this could mean meeting a certain word count each day or simply ensuring I work on my writing projects daily.
- Break your journey into manageable chunks. It’s daunting to look at my WIP and think about how many pages I have yet to write. Having a separate document for each chapter makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.
- Reward yourself for each milestone. Maybe I’ll watch the first episode of Gilmore Girls.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses:
- Strength: I’m a morning person. Get up early, get words on the page.
- Weakness: Oh, there is something called Gilmore Girls on Netflix?
- Find your tribe. Frodo had Samwise, Luke Skywalker had Han Solo, and Lorelai had Rory. I have a dedicated and intrepid writing group. (They are terrific, and I’m not just saying that in case they read this.)
At the end of her talk, Kendra asked us two questions:
- What is one small step you can make in the next week to work toward your goal?
- What step could make the biggest impact?
I really didn’t do Kendra’s book justice in this small space. The Hero Is you: Sharpen Your Focus, Conquer Your Demons, and Become the Writer You Were Born to Be delves into the different archetypes of the Hero’s Journey and how that relates to your writing journey. You’ll find lots of encouragement and camaraderie within the pages.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
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Wonderful post, Jackie. I have used Campbell’s work as a guide for decades. But I never thought of applying this to my work. What a great idea. I will read this book!
So glad this resonated for you, Patti! There is much more in the book that I couldn’t cover here. I hope you find it inspirational. 🙂
Thanks for the recommendation. I plan on reading this book and learning to become the hero of my writing days. I never thought to apply Campbell’s theory personally.
Me too, Rudri. 🙂 It never occurred to me to be the hero of my writing life. Let’s make 2017 the year to do that!
Ohh synergy — I was tapping into Campbell’s work last weekend. Archetypes can impact our personal narratives for sure, so it helps to be aware of and intentional about the ones guiding us on our own journey – hero, or otherwise. 🙂
I haven’t read Levin’s book yet, but it sounds interesting!
Madmen is presently my Netflix reward for heroic feats. Wondering now about the Gilmore Girls-haven’t seen it!
After I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I started seeing the archetypes everywhere I went, but I never thought to use them to guide my work. You’re so right — gentle awareness is key.
Mad Men is an excellent reward. If you give Gilmore Girls a try, let me know if you like it.
What a fabulous post, inspirational. I hereby swear I will put down the guacamole, turn off the Gilmore Girls, and write tonight.
It’s so hard, I know! Stay strong and good luck. 🙂
Oh, great tips, all.
I have to admit I’ve been procrastinating with A Place to Call Home on Amazon. It’s basically Downton Abbey in Australia. 🙂
Excellent! I’ve been wondering how I will procrastinate after I finish Gilmore Girls. 😉
You inspire me, as always.
When Harry Potter first came out, my father and one of my brothers, who is very conservative religiously, were concerned about these books glorifying magic of the satan-worship variety. I, who read and loved all the books, reassured them that that was not the case. They were the same classic tales of the struggle between good and evil as had been found throughout the centuries in various guises.
There really are recurring themes in literature. Happy weekend!
Thank you, Peg!
Yes, these themes do come up over and over again… and they never get old, do they? It’s a “tale as old as time.” 🙂
What an interesting concept to consider the writer as the hero on a journey. I’m intrigued!
I’m proud o you! ) Good job!