The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Origins of Lifewriting

So I said that the most important single conceptual decision of my life was to cross-reference  the Hero’s Journey and the yogic Chakras in my writing.   HJ for plotting and structure, and the Chakras for personality.

Joseph Campbell in his “Hero With A Thousand Faces” suggested that there was a single story humanity has been telling itself for all recorded time.  Maybe twenty-five years ago  I was teaching a class at UCLA, a sort of “Writer’s Tool Box”: flow state management, characterization, rewriting, breaking writer’s block, etc.  And in the middle of the class, one of the students raised his hand.

“Mr Barnes?”  He said.  “You’ve taught us all these tools and techniques, but I don’t think I’ll be able to use it.  My wife doesn’t understand my wish to write, my job takes up too much time, my kids demand so much energy…”

There is an expression I heard once that, from time to time life gives you “a cubic inch of opportunity.” Grab it, or its gone forever.  Well, I got one of those cubic inches at that moment.

“Imagine,” I said, “if you were a character in one of your own stories.    In your current life situation.   And at the end of the story, that character got everything he desired and deserved.  What would you have that character do NOW?”

He was stunned.  Silent for a moment. And then…began to solve his own problems.  He could negotiate with his wife to exchange blocks of free time.  He could brown-bag it to lunch, eat at his desk, and get forty minutes of writing—a thousand words of rough draft—done, five days a week.  He could convince his kids that having a writer dad would be exciting and fun…

I tried the same exercise with the others in the class, and every one of them began to solve problems that had been intractable until that time.

I was stunned. What the @#$$ had just happened?   I went home that night in a bit of a daze.  I told my wife Toni what had happened, and asked her if she thought it was worth looking into.  Bless her heart, she enthusiastically agreed.

And I began to research…

More tomorrow!

Namaste, Steve

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