I’ve been thinking a lot about the (my?) writing process these past couple of weeks – most likely because I’ve been very busy and have spent zero time actually writing. Specifically on my mid is “approaching the inmost cave” or the part in the hero’s journey when he/she is at the crucial point in the story when it can all go right or it can all go wrong. Where either way, the world for the hero will be a changed place because of his/her actions.
If you are unfamiliar with the hero’s journey, it is an explanation of the elements we use to tell stories – the characters, the situations, the results – all based on the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung and his archetypes. The basic tenet is that all human storytelling, from mythology to anything produced today, is organized in a specific way and that is how and why we are able to understand it. Joseph Campbell put these thoughts all together in 1949 and influenced a whole new generation of storytellers with his The Hero With A Thousand Faces. George Lucas’ Star Wars movies (especially the first three he made) are very famous, clear examples of the hero’s journey.
Back to the inmost cave. As writers, we guide/push/pull/drag/follow our characters to their inmost caves. An inmost cave can be a physical place for some of them or a place in their hearts or minds where they have to confront their greatest fears. The journey to that moment of potential change is what makes readers stick with the story; it creates the tension and poses the questions that need to be answered for the story to be resolved.
Writers have their own parallel hero’s journey (YES, writers are heroes) because every time they dive in they have to approach their own inmost caves. They have to face up to their own personal dark places and any doubts they have about their own creative process. Double jeopardy! Two inmost caves to conquer.
In my busy couple of weeks I did experience something new in my writing journey; something that may lead me to a brand new inmost cave. I was sifting through the detritus of a box that had been sitting neglected for some time and came across and early version of a story of I’ve had in the works for a long time. Scanning the old version, and knowing where the story is at now, I had an epiphany: the story needs to be put out to the world. It is ready. I’ve never felt that way about a piece of fiction before. I’ve felt things might be finished enough for a specific deadline, but not like this. Now I need to find a way to get it into the world, even if I have to push/pull/drag it through a cave.