The Writer's Journey
The writers journey is paved with bumpy roads, sharp curves and a lot
of dead-ends. If you write to live you are probably paying the rent. If you
live to write, probably someone else is paying the rent. Having done
both I believe that if you are doing what fulfills you, nature will support
you and you will succeed. The true blessing, however, is when you are
fulfilled simply by the act of doing it.
I once interviewed a
Benedictine Monk at his abbey in Baltimore, Maryland. An amateur
sculptor, he invited me to see his studio in a shed behind the main
building. During our chilly walk through the bare March gardens, I asked
him what was the goal of his monastic life; what did he hope to
accomplish when he could serve so many suffering people by being out
in the world. A handsome, soft-spoken middle-aged man with a happy
face and an inner light, he replied, It isnt the goal. Its the journey. My
inward and no less difficult than yours. In our few hours together he
gave me much to ponderabout journeys and goals and the vast
differences between the two things writers must deal withinformation
For example, while information is the
journalists lifeline, it is the journalists responsibility to get it straight.
With myriad means of gathering information today, getting the facts right
should be relatively easy. Tell that to Dan Rather. Maybe if
CBS hadnt rushed to get the story, they would have gotten the
story straight. The fiction writer also has to get the facts straight. A story
that takes place in seventeenth century Japan must taste, feel and smell
like the period. The writer has to virtually live the experience while he or
she is writing about it. The outward journey is the research; the inner
journey is beyond verbalizing.
Joseph Campbell defined the
archetype of the hero in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
George Lucas took from The Heros Journey and gave us Star
Wars. All are inner and outer journeys.
If indeed life is a
journey, the writers journey is fraught with its own unique obstacles.
Writers are either deep in contemplation with their muse (writing),
slaying the dragon (rewriting), searching for the Holy Grail (agent or
publisher), confronting inner demons (rejections, ego), battling the dark
side (scam artists). In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker has his Yoda
and Obi-Wan for wisdom and courage. In The Matrix, Neo has
Morpheus and the Oracle. What do writers have? Hopefully, our intuition
when we listen to it and our perception when were open-minded.
Writers consistently borrow from other writers, so excuse me if I
quote Dr. Wayne Dyer. When you change the way you look at
things, the things you look at change. Actually he borrowed it from
someone who died a few thousand years ago. But never mind.
In my eagerness to get a manuscript published, instead of relying
on my own insight, I rushed to judgment and almost engaged a less
than honorable literary agent. The discovery made me angry. When I
receiving emails from other writers who had the same experience with
the same shysters, I began to see the humor in it. My narrow-minded
perception of the incident gradually opened to a panorama. Its
interesting how the larger picture tends to reveal how small and
insignificant are the cheats and the deceitful. But stuff happens on
everyones journey. Whether creatures from the imagination of a genius,
or our own uncertainties on those slippery bends in the road, there
will always be the dark side. We cannot know how near or far the goal.
We do know that information without wisdom is useless. And it's the
journey that makes