The Hero Is You
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The Hero Is You

Sharpen Your Focus, Conquer Your Demons, and Become the Writer You Were Born to Be

Kendra Levin

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Hero Is You

Sharpen Your Focus, Conquer Your Demons, and Become the Writer You Were Born to Be

Kendra Levin

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About This Book

Conquer writer's block, love what you write, and finish what you start with this motivational self-care book for writers. Imagine having your own personal mentor—someone encouraging yet honest, who could help you set and achieve your goals, turn your moments of doubt and fear into sources of strength, and discover what you're truly capable of when you're at your best. Life coach and publishing industry veteran Kendra Levin is that mentor. And in The Hero Is You, she can help you do the best writing of your life—and live your best life while doing it. With wisdom drawn from her years as a life coach for writers and behind-the-scenes stories from a panoply of bestselling authors, Levin shows you how to become the hero in the narrative of your own process. Offering a fresh approach to Joseph Campbell's storytelling archetype, the Hero's Journey, The Hero Is You includes more than thirty exercises designed to help you reinvent your creative process from the inside out. This book will show you how to:

  • Identify your biggest challenges and render them powerless
  • Start a project that you love—and stick with it
  • Design a structure for writing regularly

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Information

Publisher
Conari Press
Year
2016
ISBN
9781633410268

CHAPTER ONE

the hero

identify your gifts and vulnerabilities and begin the work
You are already a Hero—whether you recognize it or not.
When I introduce the idea of the Hero's Journey as a metaphor for the writing process to the writers I work with, some inevitably balk. “I can't call myself a ‘hero,’” one said to me early in our coaching relationship, “I haven't even done anything yet!”
But being a Hero doesn't mean you've rescued kittens from a tree or performed some feat of epic strength. By the time you reach the end of this chapter, you will have taken Heroic action. In fact, I'm willing to bet you've done so already without even realizing it.
When I met Lucy at a writers' conference, she was in the middle of a major transition in her life. At lunch, elbow-to-elbow in a packed hotel ballroom, she told me her story: she'd spent two decades climbing to the top of the heap of academia and had become a distinguished professor of computer science, paving the way for other women in a male-dominated field. But the work, which had never been her passion, seemed to grow more and more political. As she watched her daughter turn from toddler to child, she felt strongly that she wanted her daughter to grow up with a mother who pursued her dreams instead of one who complained bitterly about her work every night.
When we met, she was just about to get her masters degree in creative writing that she'd been pursuing on the side in a low-residency program. Her instructors had been encouraging, and friends she'd met through the program had even connected her with potential opportunities to earn money related to writing; freelance editing gigs, copywriting, and a chance to teach had all fallen into her lap with apparent serendipity. She could technically afford to walk away from her old career. But, she confided, she wasn't sure she was ready.
“Who am I if I'm not my job?” she asked as we finished our brownies. “After all these years and all this work, can ‘writer’ suddenly be who I am, like flipping a switch?”
“It sounds to me like ‘writer’ is already who you are,” I told her, “whether you're ready to embrace that or not.”
Six months later, I got an email from Lucy through my coaching website. She'd tracked me down to see if I was available to work with her, and I was delighted to get to hear the next chapter of her story.
She'd completed her degree, said yes to the opportunities that had come along, and was phasing out of her job. In her email, she described her anxiety, but on our first call, she was flush with excitement. In her new work, she was getting to tap into skills she'd known she had but never had the chance to use in her former life. And she was thrilled to be writing more.
“I still don't know who exactly I am,” she told me cheerfully, “but I'm looking forward to finding out.”
On the bumpy, confusing, ever-evolving journey toward being someone she could take pride in, Lucy was discovering what it means to be a Hero.
A Hero, first and foremost, is a person on a quest for identity and wholeness.
A Hero, first and foremost, is a person on a quest for identity and wholeness. Who am I? What is my place in the world? What am I on this earth to do? How do I find the places, the people, and the vocations that will fill me with satisfaction and fulfillment?
When you pursue the answers to these questions by seeking out change and by challenging yourself, you become a Hero.
Every writer is on a lifelong quest. When you have a passion for writing that compels you to create, you live in a constant state of rigorous exploration. Each project brings a new adventure, and a new opportunity to push your boundaries and discover hidden layers of riches inside you. A Hero is a person with the potential for evolution.
Another objection I've heard from writers reluctant to call themselves Heroes: “It sounds too self-important.”
I'm not encouraging you to have an inflated ego. In fact, by acknowledging yourself as a Hero, you recognize that you are someone who still has lots to learn, who has the potential to grow into a more advanced version of yourself. You're at the beginning of a journey that will bring you face-to-face with your most frustrating weaknesses and flaws, push you to the limits of what you're capable of, and show you what's missing from your arsenal of skills. Being a Hero means that, instead of being cowed by these situations, you'll embrace the chance to strengthen those weaknesses, push those limits, and develop those skills.
To go on that quest for identity and wholeness, to bring about that evolution, you will have to step forward into change, like Lucy did. A Hero is a person who says yes to the adventure.
The mythic structure of the Hero's Journey sends a Hero away from home and onto a path into an unknown world, punctuated by moments of terror and wonder, culminating in a climactic experience that irrevocably changes the Hero, who returns home wiser, stronger, and capable of helping the next Hero with his or her own journey of self-discovery. We can see the Hero's Journey reflected in our lives anytime we seek out or go along with a new experience. And as writers, we see it every time we embark on the writing process with a new project.
Are you a person who says yes to the adventure? If you've picked up this book, you've already done that.
A Hero is a person who is connected with his or her own inherent gifts.
Time to start writing. Open your blank book or journal to the first page.
On one side of the page, write down the names of three people—living or dead, real or fictitious, it's up to you—whom you most aspire to be like.
On the other side of the page, write down the three qualities you most admire in each person.
Now, fold the page in half so only the character traits, not the names, are showing.
How many of these qualities do you already possess?
A mentor of mine used this exercise years ago to show me how much easier it is to recognize the attributes we admire in others than in ourselves. But so often, the people we most long to be like, our heroes, are simply versions of ourselves that are further along in life than we are, or who've employed the qualities we share with them to take a different path than we have so far. To forge our own paths, we have to understand what our natural gifts and strengths are and foster them with our attention.
Just like the people you admire, you have inherent qualities that might already be inspiring others. It's your choice what to do with them.
You are a Hero.
Heroes exhibit three kinds of behavior that I suspect you already do.

1. PROTECT

The Greek root of the word “hero” means “to protect and serve.” In myth, Heroes often embark on journeys in a quest to protect something precious to them—a person, a place, a way of life.
Throughout this book, we'll be exploring ways for you to protect something very precious to you: your writing. We're going to nourish your work itself, from its most nascent stages to a polished project you release into the world. Protecting your writing means creating a personalized way of working that is sturdy but flexible, so developing your process will be at the heart of the work we'll do.
Heroes model for us what it means to be in process. When we meet our favorite Heroes, they are just at the beginning of an ordeal, like writers starting a project. They show us how to get through a series of challenges and come out the other side wiser and stronger.
We'll look at how to protect your writing time as sacred, how to bolster yourself with support from other people, and how to guard your psyche from the pitfalls you're most susceptible to.
As you embark on this journey, think about what else in your life needs protection. What parts of yourself are vulnerable, tender, or at risk? Is there an area where you feel helpless or frustrated and wish a Hero would swoop in and rescue you?
By the end of this journey, you'll be equipped to be your own Hero, a strong protector.

2. SERVE

Service is also at the heart of every Hero's Journey. Rather than acting solely out of ego, Heroes serve a cause greater than the self. The cause could be as grandiose as saving the world or as contained as helping one person, but for the Hero, the purpose is for some greater good.
Writing can feel like a self-focused act. To do it, we have to take ourselves away from other people. We're working on projects that express our personal visions, which we dare to believe others will find interesting. We make time for writing at the expense of acts that seem to serve others—spending time with loved ones, caring for our children, volunteering, participating in our communities, keeping our homes from looking like Superfund site candidates. We isolate ourselves from communication, ignoring phone, email, and social media (or at least, we try to), and can even begin to lose our deeper connections to other people. Talking about feeling alienated from his peers, author Rick Moody told me, “My classmates from high school and college were all moving into genteel middle age, and I was still making ramen noodles and holing up for weeks at a time. It was great for writing novels, but probably stunted my emotional maturation.”
Being a Hero in your writing journey means balancing the self-focus that is essential for writing with a sense of a broader purpose. You're not writing in a vacuum, to amuse yourself, or simply because you want people to pay attention to you. You're writing because you have something to say that you feel needs to be said.
What is it about this story or message that burns to be told—and by you, specifically? What do you want to add to the world with this piece of writing? Ezra Pound called artists “the antennae of the race”; what ...

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