Good Friday, Better Me.
In most cases it’d be a cliché to say, “I’m changing,” but in this case, I feel it’s dramatic enough to not be.
It was five years ago last month that my second marriage came crashing to an end. The details, many still like fresh wounds under a band-aide that can be yanked off exposing…you get the picture, but in the past year, I’ve learned a lot about myself I didn’t know or either had suppressed or worse, stopped believing.
Since July, I’ve been a student in the Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program. I’m on the novel track. It’s like being in a master’s program, but it’s continuing education. There’s no degree at the end. Instead, there’s a high prospect of having a well-structured and polished manuscript ready to submit and plenty of feedback gained from people who have published novels. At the end of the program, there’s the opportunity to submit the work to a blind-committee who can pick up to 13 people to go to New York City and meet with potential agents and publishers. It is the only program like it in the world.
That’s a great outer goal for me. I’d love to be selected one day. But even better, there are more important things happening to me on the inside because of this process.
The Hero’s Journey
I didn’t know consciously about the Hero’s Journey before I decided in March of 2013 to write a book, but the more I was exposed to it, the clearer I see it. A few weeks ago, I told someone it was like having once seen the arrow in the FedEx logo–once you know its there, you can’t “unsee” it.
Time has proven there are 12 phases any character in a reputable work of writing, either film or print, must endure for a story to feel complete. They are: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests Allies and Enemies, Approaching the Innermost Cave, the Supreme Ordeal, the Reward, the Road Back, the Resurrection and then the Return with the Elixir. I will not go into the aspects of each of the phases, but I will say this: Writing about them and exploring them with my characters has caused ME to go through my own hero’s journey.
There’s a fun movie called Ruby Sparks about an author who writes the perfect girl and then she becomes real and ultimately helps him realize how he has to change his view of the world and relationships with the people in it. But Calvin Winfield isn’t just writing a second novel to be writing a second novel, he’s writing because his counselor thought it would be helpful for him to do so.
The leader of the SMU program, Suzanne Frank, (If you follow the link you’ll find her works on Amazon) often says in a writer’s first work, they’re exposing their innermost thoughts so much, “It’s pretty much full frontal nudity” of the psyche. Irene Adler, “The Woman” on Sherlock also said it well, “D’you know the big problem with a disguise, Mr. Holmes? However hard you try, it’s always a self-portrait.” In other words, for young/most writers, the more we try to disguise, the more it becomes a self-replica.
There are things that are in my writing that are truly reflections of me inside, though part of me still denies that. It is important for me to note that studying the process of change a character must undergo in their story has helped me come to understand the changes I need to make in my OWN life. There are major points in any story where a hero will announce or be told what he/she needs to address in their life in order to move on or to be the only one who could bring the end of the story to its ultimate outcome.
This is true for me in my life, as much as it is for any character you’ve seen on screen, but just as well, it’s true for you, my reader as well.
It’s Good Friday 2015 today. In Heroic Chapters Wednesday night, Author and SMU Scientist Keith Goodnight (you may also follow the link to his work on Amazon) was describing what has affected one of the lead characters of a person in my writing group. He said it sounded like the hero had suffered such a massive, horrific Supreme Ordeal, that he just got stuck there until years later, something came along that rekindled a spark inside him to move on to seeking a reward, taking the road back, finding/proving his resurrection and ultimately, returning with the elixir of a better world than when he started the story.
I took several significant Supreme Ordeal type corrective steps earlier this week. Keith’s words, spoken to someone else, nonetheless were affirming. Not shamefully or with any sense of anything else negative, I knew he was right. I understood what he was saying.
I don’t know what life holds in the days, months and years to come. No one does. I’ve written about 53,000 words of what I project to be a 97,400-word work and I still have much to learn about me, my characters and life. But I’m on a positive path now. In many ways, I’ve killed off the person who I’d let others turn me into over the past few years. Now I’m trying to resurrect the old, stronger, younger one–the foremost student iconoclast, as I was labeled after leaving college by a history professor I never studied under–but as important, someone who is stronger than the guy at the beginning of this story, changed forever, better or for worse, to be the only one in the world who can face my challenges head on.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
I leave you with this video from Rachel Platten. Her song is called Nothing Ever Happens. It’s written for a woman, but guys face the same issues. I have. The chorus grabs me every time I listen:
And nothing ever happens if you stay in your room
Nothing ever happens if you leave the party too soon
You’ll never be a winner if you’re not in the game
And nothing ever happens if you always play it safe
Make a little space and get out of your own way.
The next step in your life is up to you. I finally realized it was me who was holding me back. Not the people who dumped crap all in my life. I let their misery, anger, hurt, shame and baloney stick to me like concrete and freeze me, hold me back, even though intellectually I knew I needed to move on. I had to do what Rachel says, make a little space and get out of my own way. I’m 53,000 words closer to having done just that…..
You may already have noticed, you’re on GrammaticArtist.com and not DaddyClaxton.com. I’m rebranding. Even on Twitter. A grammatic artist, is someone who uses words, pictures, sound and video to tell stories with purpose, just like a graphic artist would focus on just images.