The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hero's Journal #6

Hero confronts evil, and is defeated.
Contrary to most people's beliefs, failure is nothing to be avoided--it is an absolutely vital part of the process of learning your abilities, or accomplishing something new.  "The only way you know how far you can go is by going too far."  Reaching muscle failure is one of the ways you communicate to yoru mind that additional strength is needed.  No worthwhile goal can be accomplished simply by setting out in a straight line. You must try,  and fail, and try something else, and fail again. Most will quit at this point--which is why unusual accomplishment is, by definition, unusual.  What we must learn to do is accept this "failure" as an ordinary and desirable testing of our limits.  How else can we know who and what we are except by understanding both our edge and our center?
In your journal: what events of the day or week seem to be setbacks?  How else can you conceptualize them?  Did you over-react?  What was your internal dialogue?  By becoming sensitive to the voices in your head, you can even begin to differentiate, to determine WHOSE voices those are who give you crap when you hit the wall.  Parents?  Teachers?  Husband?  Wife?  Friends?  Enemies?  Teachers?  This chorus of voices, what criminologist Lonnie Athens calls your "Phantom Community", is a major determiner of how you will and will not behave in life.  Testing your edges helps you to hear them. 
Now, then.  Understanding that failure is an ABSOLUTELY VITAL AND INEVITABLE part of the process of progress, what mechanisms do you have in place to cope with it?  What will get your mood up when it is shattered?  Look into your past actions and emotions, and you will find the key.  Journal this material.  Believe me, if  you keep your journal long enough, and honestly enough, you will  see all of these patterns, and the information contained therein will be better than gold. 
When your character hits the breaking point, what will happen?  What happens when his internal voices of despair agree with his external adversaries, and all seems lost?  In many ways, that is the most interesting moment of all, and the subject of our next discussion.

No comments: