The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Yearlong Writing Program 3-16-05

I want to post an overview of the process--new people have joined (judging by posts over on the discussion group) and I want to give them a chance to jump on board.
Lifewriting is a specific tool designed to connect the inner and outer worlds of the writer. You will use short stories to internalize the techniques, even if your ultimate goal is writing novels or plays. For plot structure, begin to understand the Hero's Journey, which we've already gone over at length. It is the only plotting technique that also mirrors the path of our lives, and therefore has special resonance. For characterization, use the yogic Chakras, which I consider to be the most complete map of human psychology ever devised. These two tools form an "X" and "Y" axis bisecting a 360-sphere which represents the total human experience. This sphere can't be painted perfectly in language, but by engaging with the aspects, we can begin to grasp it subconsciously--this is why both writing and life are arts, not sciences.
The Chakras, related to Maslow's heirarchy of human needs, suggests that until lower needs are taken care of, it is hard to evolve to higher levels. Thus, in many ways, stories are about people attempting to resolve issues that are basic in order to move on to higher states of being: survive so that you can love. Conquer fear so that you can speak your truth. Heal your heart so that you can become more spiritual, and so forth. The way to internalize this is to use the Chakras to examine your own life. Where are there holes in your own being? Where has fear crippled you? Where have you lied to yourself? Choose such issues, and build fictional stories about people with similar issues. By helping your characters resolve these issues, you are building bridges between your conscious and unconscious mind, and promoting your own personal growth--as well as the evolution of your writing skill.
It is suggested that you have personal goals in the three basic arenas: physical health/fitness, personal relationships, and career. Only by having measurable goals in all three can you begin to sense the way the world reacts to your behaviors, and begin to calibrate--to create an accurate map of your reality. With such a map, as painful as it may be, we wander in an anaesthetic haze, comforted in our lies about ourselves and the world, until the sands of our lives drain away. I STRONGLY encourage you to set such goals, and begin to notice what happens--both positively and negatively.
I further suggest that you need a way to drain the negative emotions from your life. Two fine methods suggest themselves: meditation and journaling. Meditation is supreme, but can be too confrontive for those with seriously impacted emotions. For those, try keeping a journal of your dreams, becoming sensitive to your inner language.
This is the Lifewriting technique in its baldest state. We zoom in for close-ups, I show how applying the balance model to various issues works for me, I talk about my own life from these perspectives, I invite you to speak back. That's what this blog is about.


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