The Heroine’s Journey is the narrative template we all need right now.

I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while now, having first drafted it when I was listening to the audiobook of The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger (affiliate link) back in the summer on Audible (affiliate link). I’m not really sure why I’ve held on to it for so long, other than I wasn’t quite clear on what I wanted to say. But a few weeks before the holiday season begins feels like an appropriate time to put this put there, so I’ve tried to pull those thoughts together a bit more coherently.

Anyone who has tried to write long form fiction will have heard about The Hero’s Journey, which was described by Joseph Cambell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces (affiliate link), which is a kind of narrative template that forms the backbone of many, many books and films and describes the archetypal ‘journey’ which will take a hero from the start, to the end of the story.

I had come across this template when I was completing my PhD in the psychology of stories and how they influence us, and found it an interesting and useful tool in helping to shape a story in progress. However, over time I have become increasingly troubled. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the template, as this has been done many, many times before, but the main point of the journey is that while a hero may pick up many comrades along the way, to eventually save the day he must face the major challenges alone. When he returns home, he is so deeply changed by his journey that he may not be able to find his place there again.

My main beef with this, apart from being such a poor representation of so many of the real life major human triumphs, is that is sends such a troubling message. The kind of individualism glorified by the Hero’s Journey implies that anyone who needs help, who can’t defeat their deamons on their own, is essentially weak. I’m thinking specifically through a mental health lense when I say this (I have worked in mental health research for almost ten years). This is not the first time that I have said that we need better stories about mental health, and I really think that the focus on doing it alone, or failing alone, is part of the problem here. But my thinking hasn’t got very far on how we do that. As we all know, it is easy to point out a problem, but not nearly as easy to point to a solution.

Luckily for me, Gail Carriger has written a really great book about the alternative narrative framework, The Heroine’s Journey. If you have not read it, and you are interested in telling stories that offer an alternative to the ‘going it alone’ narrative, I strongly suggest that you read (or listen to) this book.

I’m not going to do a thorough summary this complex and rich book here, as that wasn’t my intention when I wrote this post. The headline is that Carriger carefully unpicks the Hero’s Journey, and explains exactly how the Heroine’s Journey is different. The main point that I am attracted to, both for my own work and for the more general message it sends, is that strength comes from building and working with a community of like minded people. The heroine will collect together a group of trusted co-travellers, seek collaboration, compromise and peace rather than revenge, and will prioritise protecting the people she loves over the glory of a victory. Through this process the heroine will get to know each one of her co-travellers, undertand their talents, and when the time comes, give them their moment to shine.

As Carriger states, to the heroine, ‘Asking for help is not seen as a weakness, it is the very definition of her strength,’ (I’m really sorry, I don’t know the page number for this) which for me is an essentially positive message with particular relevance to mental health.

In these difficult, and isolating times, we need to move past narratives that further promote the kind of individualism that can be toxic to mental health and look to something that helps us reclaim the value that can be found in connection and in community.

The Heroine’s Journey is the narrative template we all need right now.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you creative prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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2019: Thinking about Now or Never Times (Part one)

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Lots of people over the last few days have done a kind of ’round up’ of 2019 in which they talk about highlights and low lights. I didn’t actually blog for the majority of 2019, taking an unplanned break due to personal circumstances which I will explain. For that reason I don’t really have a blogging round up to do, but I do have some thoughts about 2019 I’d like to share.

What I did in 2019

In early 2019 I moved house and started my first round of IFV. Those of you who were (probably quite disappointed by now) followers of this blog will know that I had struggled with treatment for infertility for over a year before this. To be honest I did not expect it to work for me, but I was entering the final few years of my 4th decade and was very aware that it was a ‘now or never time’ for something like IVF to work, so we went for it. In May this year we became pregnant on our first go, and we have stayed pregnant. I am now seven months pregnant, my belly is large and I can feel my baby squirming about inside me through out the day, which is pretty amazing. Having managed to get pregnant, my partner and I decided to move closer to my sister, who has also had a baby this year. So we bought a house and moved again just before Christmas. It has been an eventful year.

What I actually did in 2019, instead of blogging

Since becoming pregnant I have experienced quite severe tiredness. I thought that it would be something like anxiety that got me, but actually I have been in a good place, mental health wise, for most of the year. I was also worried that something would go wrong with the pregnancy, but so far we have been very lucky. However, I have been incredibly tired throughout the whole of my pregnancy, and the IVF beforehand. So tired t that most of the year has passed in a daze. I have managed to keep up the day job, and have taken very little time off sick. However I have struggle to keep up the kind of thinking, and creative stuff I was doing, often losing many extra hours a week to napping. I have managed to write quite a chunk of my novel here and there, but it will need significant re-writes at some point. I have also been watching a lot of crime dramas in a kind of mindless daze.

It has left me feeling rather rubbish, because, apart from the amazing feeling of him moving about inside me, I cannot claim to have enjoyed this much wanted pregnancy that a team of scientists and clinicians helped me and my partner to create. I have a number of friends who have not found IFV successful for them, and so I feel very guilty about actually complaining, but let’s say I have not felt myself. Last year I was swimming 5KM swims, and at times this year I have barely made it up the stairs. I’ve not really been able to help my partner much with the logistics of moving house, again, although I was able to unpack a lot of boxes when they arrived. I don’t know if this level tiredness is normal, but I have to say if it is then frankly I don’t know how women with large families do this over and over again. Still, not long to go now, and hopefully it will all be worth it.

So that’s mostly what I’ve been doing this year: lying about, watching telly, or sleeping.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Blogging – taking some down time

Things aren’t often noisy over here on Magpie, but they’ve been a bit quieter than usual. I’ve been having a bit of an emotional slump, which I think are related to the hormone injections I’ve been having as part of the fertility treatment. I’ve been quite flat. As a consequence I haven’t really had much to say. My intellectual muscles aren’t really engaged right now.

When not in work I have found myself drawn to a more physical existence. Pottering in the garden, making sure everything has had enough water in our uncharacteristically hot summer, and picking courgettes, which seem to be doing well while everything else wilts. Swimming in the Serpentine Lido. Drawing with pencils on paper. Cutting up bits of cloth (soaked in watered down glue to prevent the edges fraying) and paper into new shapes. Arranging and rearranging things so experiment with different forms and colours. Anything that I can touch with my hands, anything with texture.

The online world feels a bit more unreal than usual to me at the moment. A little less engaging than it has been in the past. I am sure it will pass and I’ll have a bit more to say. Soon.

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying

Objects with Meaning #21 – Birthday nail varnish

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #20 – Glam headband

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. I’ve still never worn it, 7 years later. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #19 – Birthday Card

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.
 

 

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #18 – Birthday Pen

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.

 

 

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #17 – Christmas Chocolate

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. I’m sure these don’t exist any more, I ate these shortly after this photo was taken! Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.

 

 

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #16 – Wicca Heart

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This is a part of a series of photos of objects that have meaning to me. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.

 

 

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Objects with Meaning #15 – Onesie

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This is a part of a series (including typos!) of photos of objects that have meaning to me. Want to know a little more about the origin of this project? Have a read here.

Fellow magpies, what objects have meaning for you? If you would like to join in and tell the story of your own objects with meaning have a read of this post, or post in the comments below.
 

 

Like what you see? I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.