What is The Hero’s Journey?
There are three main stages to The Hero’s Journey:
Stop! It’s much easier to watch this short, animated video. It explains it all, simply and beautifully.
My Hero’s Journey: writing my first book
The First Calls to Adventure – and Refusals
I wanted to be an author since I learned how to write. My first stories however were not worshipped and revered, so I thought I probably wasn’t author material.
I started to keep a diary from age eleven. I still write almost daily in it, but now I call it my journal.
At school, in any free moment, I wrote diary-like entries in my Rough Book.
From the first time I ever held a pen, to over fifty years later, I’m still writing.
The Call to Adventure
The ‘I want to write a book’ idea did not go away completely. Year after year I contented myself with writing – just for me, in my journal. It was my passion. It was enough.
It must be more than a decade ago that I heard the call again, this time more strongly. It’s true, big desires do not go away. They just get bigger.
I’d heard the call many years previously but did not answer it. I carried on writing in my journals and online. But I did not start writing The Book.
Mentors, Departure from the Ordinary World
Help and encouragement came in the form of: spiritual teachers such as Abraham-Hicks with their inspiring and life-transforming books and audios; like-minded LoA friends I met online and at workshops; and other friends and writing gurus who had already done what I wanted to do.
I followed The Creative Penn and Joanna Penn’s inspiring, writer’s journey for many years and I still do. As I followed her journey I thought:
“That’s what I want.”
Accepting the Challenge
Eventually, resistance was futile. I committed. I accepted the challenge. I decided to write – and publish – my first book.
The trials began. Some small, some bigger. I had to learn new things about my chosen challenge. I was moving into the world of writers and authors. I was moving into the world of Book Creators and StoryTellers.
Occasionally, I doubted myself, but mainly I remembered to soothe and encourage myself.
I learned to ease off the reigns, if the horse was careering downhill faster than I was ready to go.
I fully immersed myself in the act of Writing The Book. Finally I felt like I was a writer. And I was beginning to feel like an author too.
This is getting Real.
For me, The Approach part of the journey is about doing the work in order to actually become the author. It’s the act of seeking out, downloading and piecing it all together. Discovering the various aspects or components that make up my book.
Because without the Book, I won’t become the Author.
The Approach is a little scary sometimes.
Because I don’t just want to be an author. I want to write a great book. I want to write well.
It’s feeling risky. Can I really do it?
I want to learn how to self-publish smoothly and to market effectively. I’ve got all the relevant teachers, books and gurus lined up – but there’s still work to do!
“You love this. Your work is your play. Keep going.”
There are challenges and learning points all along the way. It can be overwhelming.
It’s a bit like piecing together the bones of a skeleton, so that you have something for the flesh (words) to hang on. A rather macabre image, but a pretty accurate one for me right now.
There’s lots of advice out there. No wonder I sometimes feel overwhelmed.
Despite all of that, I began to slowly morph my original story concept into a more detailed outline and then worked on the plot.
I followed Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, with a degree of success. Through that I became a lot clearer about my plot.
I also got the book’s synopsis down to a few sentences – which I read appreciatively and thought “Hmm, I’d want to Look Inside.”
But even though I was pleased with the synopsis, there was a lot more of the skeleton to build.
So I did some more work, on my own, mapping out possible plot scenarios, dipping into more books for plotting advice, and sometimes adding to the feeling of overwhelm.
And More Mentors
I found Shawn Coyne’s book The Story Grid helpful. But I wasn’t sure that I’d quite grasped how to do the actual Gridding. Not in relation to my own book anyway.
Maybe I was jumping the gun? Or maybe I should try to implement the ‘Story Grid’ at the same time as I was writing?
I decided to go back and slowly re-read The Story Grid, taking notes as I went.
Time passed …
Helpful Videos and Podcasts
Then Shawn Coyne produced some Story Grid videos that explained the Story Grid process very clearly and succinctly. Better! The information started to sink in.
Yes, the Story Grid is an editing tool. But if you know what the components of a good story are, then you can ensure your story includes those components – at the same time as you are creating the story.
A few months down the line, Tim Grahl and Shawn Coyne got together to produce a podcast: Tim Grahl is writing his first fiction book (he’s already written non-fiction) and Shawn, in his Expert Editor role, is assisting Tim with his story structure. A winning combo!
The podcasts are helping me to click everything into place. Eventually I may even fully understand how to use the Story Grid on my own story.
Okay, scrub that to “I will fully understand how to use the Story Grid on my own story.”
Biggest Enemies (dragons and goblins to slay)
My biggest enemies are my own fears and doubts. That’s it. Full stop. Period!
Thankfully I’m getting good at noticing the doubts, when they first start sidling their way in, hoping I won’t notice. I’m getting better at easing those small, initial doubts before they grow.
If I jump on them fast, then the little doubts don’t have a chance to develop into larger fears.
So I sweet-talk myself until they get bored, and then they simply go away and leave me alone.
I cheer-lead myself and create little images like this on canva.com
And I’ve stopped feeling self-conscious about doing things like that. Whatever works, is fine by me.
I have not reached the ‘Crisis’ part of the Hero’s Journey yet. Maybe I can skip it. (Watch this space.) Repeat: Maybe I can skip it.
Yup – Even More Mentors
In particular Shawn spoke of a book by Christopher Vogler called The Writer’s Journey. I already knew a bit about the work of Joseph Campbell, not in huge detail. But to apply the Hero’s Journey to the Writer’s Journey? That sounded like my kind of book.
I ordered it.
The book arrived, and as I read about the various stages of the Hero’s Journey, a mental light bulb exploded – Ka-BOOM!
“Oh!” I suddenly realised. “My book is about The Hero’s Journey!”
My fiction book, intuitively scribbled down, without me realising until now, was based on The Hero’s Journey.
Now, I had something I could work with!
My story had already taken on a form. It already had an outline and a ‘structure’, one that is as old as time.
As I compared my book with the stages of the Hero’s Journey it fitted beautifully. It matched.
I could see how my protagonist was to progress: from leaving his ‘ordinary world’; entering the ‘special world’; going through his trials, challenges, and adventures; then finally, returning home to the ordinary world, forever changed (for the better.)
I already had my skeleton, my structure to hang my words on. It was there all along.
Actually, I think ‘It’ is there, all along, every time. It’s just that we can’t always see it right away.
Until we’re ready.
Or until we’ve stopped trying so hard to look for it. Until we’ve stopped desperately trying to find it.
The Treasure is of course The Book and so much more, I’m sure of that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the treasures will unfold as my Hero’s Journey progresses.
(According to WordPress I’ve made 85 revisions to this blog post. I think that is more than enough for today. Time to hit Publish.)
The rest is still to come. The completed book and the journey to it.
Where are you on your Hero’s Journey? 🙂
Is it a Writer’s Journey like mine, or something else?