“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize
your potential.”― Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work
I mentioned last week that I’ve been fortunate enough to find a mentor to help me launch New Bayou Books and, through it, to kick start a revolution in South-Louisiana literature. The first book he had me read was The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell. It’s all about the hero’s journey. Campbell studied ancient myths for so long that a pattern jumped out at him. And not just some vague you can see it if you squint hard enough kind of pattern, but a universal structure that becomes obvious once it’s pointed out to you. It turns out that every hero story, whether it’s ancient or brand new, pretty much follows the same chronology.
I’m not gonna name all the steps here (though I did recently do an exercise in which I examined the hero’s journey through the lens of my first two books . . . perhaps I’ll come back to that in a future post). But if this whole hero’s journey thing is new to you, it’s definitely worth a few YouTube videos on the subject. I only mention it here because I feel like I’m in the “trials” phase of the journey, when the hero is at his lowest.
It’s not entirely because my third book isn’t going well . . . but it’s mostly because my third book isn’t going well. At all.
I put out two books in 2021 . . . which, I know, I’ve bragged about many times on this blog. But I’m mentioning it here not to brag, but to help explain why I think I’ve entered the trial-period with the third book. See, for the first two, I think I was still working from adrenaline. I had had this vision of starting New Bayou Books and creating a spark that becomes a flame that ultimately lights the world on fire with amazing new works of South-Louisiana literature. It was a visceral surge of inspiration that motivated the shit out of me. It wound me up so tight that I cranked out two pretty lengthy novels in a pretty short time.
Now, in retrospect, it’s clear to me that I should have actually slowed down . . . but that’s another story for another day. The point is I was riding that wave of enthusiasm for this new venture, and the extra boost helped to carry me through.
But now the effects of the drug have worn off, and it’s just me, my computer, and these characters that just will not get off their assess and do something interesting. The trial has begun.
I’m not sure if I’m the hero in this story. Or, wait . . . scratch that. Of course I’m the hero. We are all heroes of our own story. I guess the thing is, I don’t really feel like one right now. Right now I feel like I’m writing yet another book that no one is particularly interested in reading. And it feels . . . lonely. It feels fruitless. Useless. Pick your favorite word that describes a deaf man sawing at a tree in the woods he knows no one will hear fall.
Is this my low point? Is this my trial? Will my characters eventually do something interesting?
Damned if I know. The only thing I do know is I’ll have to keep writing to find out.