A few days ago, I had the chance to hear writer, public speaker, and publisher Deb Dixon speak about the Hero’s Journey. Yowza! The HJ narrative, as identified and interpreted by Joseph Campbell, drives many of our stories and myths. Since Dixon’s talk, I’ve been viewing my adventures and misadventures through the prism of the HJ. In short, I've become the heroine of my own life. Here’s what I mean:
Weeks ago, I sat in my ORDINARY WORLD, pecking at my laptop and talking to my cats when an email arrived from my writing buddy Janice Martin. She’d made the finals of Georgia Romance Writers of America’s Maggie contest. Did I want to travel with her to Atlanta for the conference and awards ceremony. Hoo boy! I know a CALL TO ADVENTURE when I hear it. “I’m in,” I wrote back.
Last Thursday, we picked up our seat assignments at the Air Tran counter and boarded our plane. Unbeknownst to me, I was seated in the emergency-exit row. Before the flight took off, a flight attendant approached and said he'd have to move me. Huh? When he pointed to his ears, I realized he’d noticed my sound processors (the external parts of my cochlear implants). I was embarrassed, and my inner child wished I’d never agreed to leave home (REFUSAL OF THE CALL). Air Tran had assigned me that exit-row seat; I never requested it. Wah! Fortunately, my adult brain kicked in to remind me that, even with the implants, I might not immediately understand a crew member’s instructions after a crash or forced landing. Do I want to risk lives? N-O. I swallowed my pride and tried for zen-like calm. The flight attendant moved me toward the front of the plane, but not, alas, to first class. When I was settled, he made the sign-language sign for thank you and my lingering pique vanished. The incident served as a TEST and I like to think I made an ALLY.
Janice and I met many MENTORS, from the person who showed us how to buy a Breeze card for Atlanta’s MARTA train to the conference organizers and workshop presenters, but the uber-MENTOR was Dixon whose workshops on the Hero’s Journey and on Goal, Motivation and Conflict spoke to me. Thanks to her, I didn’t hesitate before CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.
Ah, but there were more TESTS, ALLIES, and ENEMIES to come. Janice and I struggled to perfect our agent/editor pitches. The toilet in the hotel room across from ours flooded, and water seeped into our room, forcing the hotel staff to relocate us. Nevertheless, we made our APPROACH, that is, prepared for what was to come. Good thing, too, because on Friday evening, a power outage shut down part of the Atlanta suburb where our hotel was located. At the time, Janice and I had just taken our seats for an evening workshop. I was stunned into silence, which was lucky since everyone else stayed calm and my whimpers would have attracted attention. For me, the darkness represented an ORDEAL. After fifteen or so minutes, the hotel’s generators kicked in, and the hallway lights came on. We dragged our chairs into the hallway, and the workshop presenters, Annie Rayburn and Susan Carlisle, showed how to write an emotional synopsis. They nailed the workshop and didn’t let us see them sweat even as the temperature inside the hotel climbed.
Shortly after the workshop ended, power was restored. Yay!
The awards ceremony represented a REWARD, as did the success of our agent and editor appointments.
On Sunday morning, Janice and I embarked on THE ROAD BACK. We reacquainted ourselves with MARTA, passed through airport security, and returned to Houston.
In the next few days, we’ll send out requested pages. To do so, we’ll have to battle self-doubt and fear of failure to achieve THE RESURRECTION.
The RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR represents more than one outcome. It could be me signing a book contract or encouraging you, dear readers, to see your lives as story-worthy. You've already answered the CALL TO ADVENTURE, although you term it “motherhood,” or “accounting,” or “truck driving.” Your sullen teenager, attempt to reconcile ledgers, and night-time drive through a storm are TESTS you must pass. There are times when life’s an ORDEAL, and times when it’s a REWARD. Hang in there.
Your turn: How would you handle a blackout in a strange-to-you locale? Would you cower in the darkness or turn on your cell phone light the way for others?
Want to know more about the Hero’s Journey? Start here.