While writing my novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” By studying many cultures, Campbell identified recurring themes in stories, and distilled them into a universal pattern of human growth.
As a creative woman in midlife, I am on a journey to find new meaning in my life. Finding my voice and sharing my vision is part of that journey. And I find myself wondering, what is the “Heroine’s Journey,” especially for creative women in their middle years?
Although there is a general order in the journey, growth isn’t linear, and you might revisit each phase along the way. This is what I’ve learned so far.
Phase One—The Default Life
Whether your current situation is good, bad, or indifferent, you know it’s time for a change.
Maybe you came to your “default life” through a plan that led to exactly where you wanted to be. Or perhaps, life derailed your plans, leading you to where you didn’t want to be.
Regardless, you know you need to grow and stretch beyond your current life.
How do you know? You get a wake-up call.
Phase Two—The Wake-Up Call
Your wake-up call might come as a subtle whisper, or a jarring scream.
It can be a rejection of something you don’t want: NOT THIS!
It can be a calling for something you do want: YES, THIS!
For me, it was a combination of both.
I did not want to work in a business that put numbers first and people last. But more importantly, I needed to express myself creatively. To not create was not an option, because creating is my calling.
The wake-up call can be especially poignant at midlife, because along the way, you’ve experienced real losses and narrowed choices, and the clock is ticking. You have a sense of urgency.
How do you discover and follow your calling? You simply start doing what matters to you. You take the first steps.
Phase Three—First Steps
This is where you get to explore and discover. You get to play and make mistakes. I love this phase because it’s full of curiosity and wonder!
You follow clues and have insights. You try on many hats until you find the one that not only fits, but looks like you.
It’s exciting! You’re full of energy and enthusiasm. You’re having fun.
The world is full of possibilities… until it isn’t.
Here come the dragons. Here come the doubts and regrets, the confusion, the loss and grief. “Welcome” to phase four.
Phase Four—Lost and Found
You know you’ve entered this phase when you feel alternately lost and found, hopeless and hopeful.
You might experience a roller coaster of ups and downs, marinate in a stagnant soup, or twirl in a whirlpool.
Round and round you go, until you find your own still center, at the heart of the moving wheel that is your life.
Here’s the key to this phase: Letting go of what is passed allows your life to expand again. It’s not easy. This phase is difficult, but essential. (See When Hope Evaporates for an example.)
This phase cooks away everything extraneous. It leaves you with the core of yourself, stronger and wiser.
There comes a point on your journey where there is no going back. This is where you make it real in a way that you haven’t before.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.”
— William Hutchison Murray
Commitment has been especially challenging for me. All sorts of fears come up, but foremost is the fear of not having enough. It jumps right into my path and demands that I deal with its taunts, that I won’t have enough money, enough food, enough help. Enough (already)!
To borrow from Campbell, this is where I have to face my inner dragon and make friends with it, because each time I try to “slay” it, it returns. It is teaching me something, painfully at times, that I need to understand.
There is truth in what the dragon says; it’s just a matter of degree. Facing the dragon diffuses the drama. It turns the raging beast into a little lizard. It’s still there, but it’s not going to destroy my dreams.
There are no guarantees, except that one day, this life will end. It matters immensely how I choose to live the life that I have left on this beautiful earth. I choose to create.
Phase Six—Finding Your Voice
As you take your first steps, find and lose your way over and over, but commit to your journey anyway, your unique creative genius emerges.
No one sees the world exactly like you do. No one else looks through your eyes, no one else shares your mind, your soul, your experiences that make you who you are.
Sometimes, I start to talk myself out of doing something, because “someone else has already done it.” Of course someone else has already done it! That’s not the point.
The point is, no one else can do what you do, the way that you do it. Sing loud and strong!
Phase Seven—Sharing Your Vision
When you develop and share your gifts, you are giving in a powerful way. You touch people beyond your circle of family and friends. This is profound.
Creative women who are also caretakers, often think they’re being “selfish” when they take care of their own needs—let alone follow their calling. They must face the “Selfish Dragon.”
If you’re struggling with this, let me offer you a new perspective: When you follow your calling—when you write your novel, paint your masterpiece, sing your soul—and share it with the world, we all benefit.
That is what I mean when I say, “The world wants your gifts!”
My life, your life, everyone’s life is a journey of discovery. We’re all exploring some facet of the universe, using the gifts we bring to this world. When we share these gifts, we enable others to look through the lens that we see through. It expands our lives. And that is thrilling!
Don’t hoard your treasure. Don’t waste your gifts. Share them with us!