Establishing Your Character(s)
Our entire lives are framed by narratives. They are the narratives we create for ourselves, the ones we learn how to mold and analyze from the very first day we traced our fingers along the pages of a book, sounding out the letters that made the words that told the stories that captivated our youth. Many may not be conscious of it, the days passing by in a passive existence. Many, if not all of us, struggle with getting to the climax – and plenty unfortunate souls never even make it there (or at least, they’re met with an abrupt end with no resolution). But for those of us who are lucky enough to follow our narrative beginning to end, engaged enough to be captivated by our own story, there is a hero’s journey all our own.
But what do we do with writer’s block?
It’s the affliction all writers face, indiscriminate of experience and previous successes. Nevertheless, it seems to hit the youngest the hardest.
Who is my main character?
Who am I?
Fortunately, our generation has centuries upon centuries of human study to turn to in our hour(s) of need. A simple test could be all one needs to discover his/her call to adventure by providing a preview of strengths.
As someone who was an Arya Stark-type in childhood if ever there was one, the results of my test seemed surprising at first:
How could the tomboy who had a reputation that sent the boys running the other way (proudest moment of my childhood, hands down) specialize in Empathy? Developer? Well, times change, and people change with them. Our childhood values don’t necessarily disappear, but they do evolve.
Meeting the Mentor
So our hero has taken the test and she knows which tools will serve her best. How does she learn to wield them? Well, if Arya had access to YouTube, she’d probably start somewhere like here. If she had access to modern publications, she might also create her own Wandering Map and learn to connect the dots of her journey thus far (or, y’know…just stab it in frustration).
What she did exceptionally well, however, was to make a mentor out of whomever happened to be playing a significant role in her life at the time. She began with those whom she liked, made the best out of the one or two she didn’t, and has come out the other end of those experiences older, wiser, and stronger.
While making the most of my own unfavorable situation, I’ve utilized my Intellection strength and coined a term all my own – Survive and Thrive.
These are the two categories of human occupation I’ve coined for myself as a way of justifying the “uselessness” of my humanities studies. Personally, I’ve always known my pursuit in liberal arts has never been useless. Perhaps it’s not necessarily lucrative, but doubtlessly necessary. Dead Poet’s Society’s John Keating taught us all we needed to know about the humanities in one eloquent moment:
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Enter my two categories.
Survive – the occupations concerned with the necessary components of sustaining life and maintaining modern comforts. These include the engineering and medical profession Keating mentions, along with pursuits in agriculture, child development, etc.
Thrive – the occupations that make life worth sustaining. Enter liberal/fine arts.
What’s necessary to note is that one cannot be maintained without the other. Survival occupations need a reason to keep going, or the “purpose” us liberal arts majors are always pining after. However, the Thriving occupations also need to eat. A fully rounded education involves using one’s tools creatively in order to support both categories of occupation so that both categories may support each other.
Once the hero realizes that mentors come in many shapes, sizes, and educational backgrounds, the real journey can begin.
Road of Trials
But what exactly does it mean to begin the journey? Was the test the starting point, and do we only ever have just one story?
Humans are complex creatures with complex lives. The sum of our parts fill many pages and result in many books, and our strengths/tools will change over time.
So while the writer’s block may not be entirely broken, it has certainly begun to crack.