The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Road of Trials

This note was sent to the Lifewriting list today, on the subject of the "Road of trials." I suspect there is a bit of overlap between that list, and the current subject here. Take a look...
If you were to make a brutally honest evaluation of the skills and resources it will take to reach your goals, and subtract from that total the skills and resources you currently possess, you would have a clear view of what you must learn, express, or obtain in order to fulfill yourself. Few human beings will do this. Mores the pity.

Once you’ve done this, divide this “work” into chunks small enough that you can identify daily, weekly, and monthly goals within it. And then start eating that elephant, one forkful at a time. That’s the “Road of Trials.” The fourth step of the Hero’s Journey represents the places the hero must go, the things he must do, in order to learn the lessons. There is often, though not always a component of external travel involved. There is always a component of internal work and exploration. This is always where the real “journey” takes place. Anything external is functional metaphor. Of course, if you’re writing a simple action or adventure story, you might con yourself or your reader into believing that the hero is already complete, need not change, is as solid as a frozen potato. Great. And people buy into that. It’s not human reality, however.

As a writer, you have a million words of garbage to get out of your system before you find your “voice.” A thousand words a day will get you there in three years. Get to it.

As a story character, something massive has motivated you to get off the dime, to move out of your comfort zone and seek wealth, revenge, love, art, or survival. Where do you need to go to learn the appropriate lessons? What will you experience along the way?

In life, there is a passage between birth and death. There are “doors” of perception that open along the way in conjunction with benchmark events: first job, first love, birth of first child, death of a parent, personal death. Each of these expands awareness in ways that are often quite unanticipated. And each of these has traditions, schools and philosophies associated, designed to help us gain the wisdom to make the transition to the next level with minimum strain.

What changes do you need to make in your own life? Here’s a hint: a secret to life is to be as honest and clear as possible. And the most important thing to be honest about is your own identity. I can promise you that no matter what you think about yourself, no matter how you define yourself, if there is a label you think fits you, you are wrong. Go deeper. Your real identity, and genuine existence, are beyond all labels. The temptation is stop at easy answers, answers that fit the culture, our families, that make sense of our histories.

All are phantoms if you keep asking questions. A story is a question, told on the level of myth. If that question engages with the subject of personal identity—in other words, if you will write about things that matter to you, you will elevate your work to the level of art, just with this one step. Write so that you clarify your own existence. Write to put your blood on the paper. Write to change the world with your passion. Write to create images and scenes that have never graced our screens or imaginations.

Write for your life.

1 comment:

keepitklassy said...

well first I can say wow!i love this literature it really hits with expansion i like that.And so many are disconnected from a world and a life that is so precious ...we have become robots.