Are you familiar with the concept of the Hero’s Journey? I first became aware of it through a book called The Synchronicity Key, in which author David Wilcock briefly discusses screenplay development, and how to be a successful Hollywood writer. Follow that structure, he says, and you will have a much better chance. On reading this, I immediately wondered whether the 3 books I’d already written followed that particular winning recipe. Turns out they do. I had been unconsciously replicating a narrative pattern I’d probably picked up from reading other books, and watching films. I was glad of it, and now I also wanted to look deeper into it.
In 1949, Joseph Campbell published a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which analysed myths from all over the world, different eras, and mapped out the similarities between each of them, which turn out to be staggering. This underlying structure Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Almost every successful movie you’ve ever seen, regardless of genre, uses this pattern: a main character goes on a quest, and what follows is an epic adventure through highs and lows, rough times and recoveries, until eventually the hero emerges victorious and transformed. The Hero’s Journey structure appears in all types of storytelling, religious texts, the NLP Model of Change, and psychological development. In this, Campbell’s work links with that of Carl Jung, who discovered that ancient myths keep repeating in our dreams through what Jung called ‘archetypes’. And so, could it be that we are all following a hidden path on a Hero’s Journey through spiritual evolution?
Now, whenever I write a book, I am IT, period. I am the characters, every single one, and all at once. I am the mountains in the background, the rain, the sunshine, and the cold beer in my lead woman’s hand. Meanwhile, I circle the cast, the props, and the entire setting from up on high, assuming different positions, perspectives, and a thousand points of view… Yep. That is what you do when you are a writer. So, what would happen if one night I went to bed, and woke up in my main character’s body, having completely forgotten who I really am? I would wonder what this bloody story is all about, that’s what! This is a concept that philosopher Tim Freke also talks about in a gem of a book called Lucid Living. In his book, Tim discusses the idea that we are asleep in our dream of existence. We have forgotten that we are both the dreamer and the dream. Or the writer and the story. But what if one day the main character suddenly realised, “Hey, hang on… I’m the weaver of this tale!”
A few things might change then, especially if we remember the concept of successful story-building: tell me, would you be happy to pay money to watch Frodo Baggins potter around in his garden for 3 hours? Probably not! Much better to send him on a rough journey of growth and transformation, have him fight dragons, and confront loss, hurt and fear along the way. In my books, I like to put my characters through the ringer quite a bit too. It just makes for a much better read. So, if you are going through some difficult stuff in your experience right now, think about it for a minute. Personally, I find it helpful. I am much more relaxed about life now. Reconnecting with the writer that I am, I know nothing is happening that I do not create. I am bigger than my present story. So, it’s okay. I don’t have to get lost in it. I can trust the thread, and flow with it. People claim it’s crazy, but it works for me. And who says life is anything other than a beautiful story anyway?
Indeed, it’s hard to believe. After all, the physical world out there feels very real. And of course, it would. Because we are all excellent writers, even if some of us are only just starting to remember it. So, the world feels real, because we have made it so. Other people appear separate from us, because we need individual characters for any story to unfold. And sometimes we cry, as we forget that we are the ones doing the writing… But often we laugh, too! So, remember: this is your book, and you are the hero. Dare to live a life that leaves you slightly out of breath sometimes. Write your own blockbuster. And have faith: you are not alone.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” – John Lennon