The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Hero's Journal #1

1) The Hero is confronted with a challenge

What is your character's steady-state existence?  What do they want?  What do they NEED?  (And only in a fairly evolved person will these two be the same.)  What is the gap between want and need?  Have they accepted responsitility for their existence?  If they are an adult, there is no more excuse for blaming society, parents, or anything else. These things may be problematic, but EVERYONE has a painful history.  Life doesn't care.  Either you use these things as motivations, or you are swept into the Vortex of diminished expectations and results and impact on those you love.   When you wear your dysfunction and pain like a badge of honor, people stop listening.

And this is where your journal comes in.  Truth be told?  I don't care if you're a writer.  That's an excuse to reach out to the world.  Keep a journal anyway.  Write in it every day, and quickly. After a few months, start reading back through it.  If you've written enough, the truth will begin to emerge: it is hard to sustain a lie, even an existential lie.  Note that this blog functions as my journal.  Note how close I come to blaming racial politics for disappointments in my life.  DAMNED close.  I manage to skirt it, most of the time, but it is clear I have damage there, and it's my responsibility to heal it.  Yes, there are cultural problems. No, it makes no difference.  Either I will parent my children, write my books, strengthen my body, and be an adult human being, or I will be a child blaming fate for my pain.  Someone has to be a grown-up, or the children are in grave danger.  I choose to be one of the adults, regardless of the price in honesty.
If you're a writer, your journal will be your best source of understanding the human condition.    As you go through it, think of the different steps of the Hero's Journey, and how it applies to your life on that particular day.
What have you failed to take ful responsibility for?  Are you still blaming parents/  Society?  Have you accepted responsibility for your physical body,  career, relationships?  Are they healthy? (And you can generally tell if they are healthy by asking yourself if you would want your own children to live that way)
the challenge is to master your life, to be a free, atonomous, fully alive and awakened adult male or female of the species.  Do you, or do you not accept the challenge? anyone who does, regardless of where they are on the path, is my brother or sister.  Period.
What do you need to move forward?  Begin to pay the price.  What does your character need to grow to the next level?  Your story will be this very challenge.

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