Friday, July 31, 2009

It's The Journey, Not The Destination. Right?

First, I wanted to thank all of you who stopped by and left such sweet comments on my last (uh, first) post, buzzing by from sweet Sarah's blog. I am thrilled to meet you, hear your thoughts and to visit some of your blogs--which I will continue to do as I go. Wow, this can really be addictive! You're all so interesting!

Years ago, (don't ask me how many) I found a book called "The Writer's Journey" by a guy who taught at UCLA Extension named Chris Vogler. It has since become something of a bible in the screenwriting world when it comes to developing structure and it was based on Joseph Campbell's 1000 page epic, "Hero With a Thousand Faces," which, if I had two hundred years, I might attempt to plow through.

Vogler's book ( a condensed version) was kind of life changing for me. It was all about myth and The Hero's Journey. You know...character arc and figuring out how characters change in your story? Anyway, there are these stages that characters go through--out of the darkness and into the light? It's all very riddled with adventure and angst! At least, that's the way it's supposed to go. His title, "The Writer's Journey," eluded me for a while. I was so distracted, figuring out how my characters could use this structure in my stories.

But as I embarked on this new empty-nest chapter of my life (ie.-- flapping like an under-feathered baby bird in the grass, crying "Mommmeeee!") it occurred to me one sleepless night as I channel-surfed mind-numbingly bad infomercials that I had just stumbled into my own Inmost Cave! My own Tests, Allies and Enemies! The inevitable Crossing the Threshold! (Sorry, that's Vogler-speak for the *&^% is about to hit the fan!) All that I knew to be true was about to be tested. I was up a tree and some nameless force was throwing rocks.
What? I'm a character in my own life?? Hmm. This was an interesting concept. And as I looked around me, I realized it was true. And not in any archetypal sense either. For real. And most of my friends had inadvertently stumbled into it, too. We were all suddenly in this weird scary place, smack dab in the middle of our lives and none of us could figure out where the light switch was. The trick was, how to get to the other side with the prize. My own personal prize--if I could find it--would be to be figure out who I was. This new me.

I began to plot my way out of this fix. I decided to be--(er, I contemplated being) proactive, like any good hero. (Okay--in the interest of full disclosure, my husband latched onto this new idea with the optimism of man whose last floatation device has just drifted by.) He literally sent me dozens of emails during the day full of possibilities for story lines, ideas for jobs, connections for jobs.... Finally, he ran into a friend who had just come back from this fabu place in Vermont where she'd apparently unleashed the inner Her! She had a One-Woman show going up that had been part of a project she'd done for this place. My husband forwarded me the web site. Then, an application. He was relentless.

So, of course, I did the next logical thing. I applied for Grad school.

Be kind to yourself--Barbara


Holly said...

The Grad school thing? Did that back in the 80's. Sheessh, could it really be that long ago? Yeah...okay...sigh.

I enjoyed it. I thought it was going to be the gateway to what I wanted which, turns out, not so much. But, I'm proud of that accomplishment. And, that can't be a bad thing...

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

Well, dear old departed Joseph Campbell was right. There are predictable stages to the hero/heroine's journey. I feel like I was looking back on my life a few years ago as I read yours.

Flailing around for my next adventure, I too applied and was accepted to do my doctorate - and was over the moon with the new challenge and the fact that I could engage in my favorite sport - learning. I had so much fun thinking about topics for my thesis, but began to notice I felt somewhat constrained and hindered by having to conform to the guidelines and preferred topic areas of the program.

Then we bought a new home with an acre of land, beautiful gardens and even a brook. My daughter suddenly left her husband and she and her 2 daughters moved to the new house with us for a time. I realized then that I did not want to be confined to working on a thesis - that I had other things I wanted to do - and I wanted the freedom to do them when I chose. So I withdrew from the Ph.D. program and have not regretted it.

Life is so good and family continues to be central even when the nest is empty - they keep flying back to visit all the time.

I wish you good luck in your new adventure. Wonderful to stand on the edge of the threshold - it is also known as "liminal space" - the verge of something new and exciting.

stregata said...

It sounds like you have a great husband, very dedicated and loving! I wonder how your story will continue...

Sarah Sullivan said...

Wonderful..amazing post Barb. I knew I would learn new things about you..I gotta get that book!! I love the way you leave us waiting for the next piece. Silly the wonderful writer you are wicked good with a hook girl!!
I just love coming to the blogs and finding you here!!
BTW..Her the bee's knees - amazing man!!
Love ya hon, Sarah

clairedulalune said...

Your have a wonderful way for telling the story of your life! I love the way you describe "the character in your own life", and yes it is scary!!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Have you been to Alexandra Sokoloff's site? She's a "horror-thriller" writer, but, also was a screenwriter in LA and talks about structure and plot lines and etc - she gives a quite interesting workshop and I've told her if she could put her thoughts into a book, it would help writers.

I never think about these things, structural things, when I write, but hearing about them afterward, and then going back to my novel and trying to see how I followed those things instinctively is interesting to me!