Lucid dreaming and sexual protocols

I do love a good conversation.  My statement that I would not engage in a lucid dream (a dream in which you have conscious control, are “awake” within the dream.  It is very much like performing “real magic” as it can seem 100% real)  fantasy of sex without asking permission of the woman in question set off a firestorm of comment, some curious, some offering their own experiences, and others suggesting that such a question was tantamount to sexual harassment.   My response was that no one was asking how I chose or approached these ladies, and that I feel confident that they’d have felt comfortable saying “no”.  When told I was likely mistaken, I said that I had specific knowledge of them, and felt no compulsion to assume they were too frightened to speak their truth about such things based on a general assumption about women in the 80’s.

One comment struck me as the kind of thoughtful words deserving of a little time, so I decided to post it here on the blog, as it would also connect to my FB page:


Kristina Forsyth said:  Steven Barnes, you said “you obviously don’t know the women I knew.” you are indulging in the fallacy of illicit transference. Samson made a statement about women in general 25 years ago, and you refuted that statement with a specific subset of women.

Frankly, I find the idea of asking for permission to ravish women in your dreams (regardless of what sort of ravishing you have in mind) a little creepy myself, even though I understand your point that , in the relationships you had with these women, this was actually a respectful instance of asking for consent. I also agree with those who have said that simply stating your desire to have lucid, sexual dreams about a woman could make her feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe. Indeed, if a woman did feel that way, it is possible she would also feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe, saying so.


First, I’ve admitted that the word “ravish” has at least dual definitions, and one of them is definitely rapey.  I admit I could have chosen a better word when I said: “I would ask a woman if I had their permission to  pull them into my dreams and ravish them.”  Should have said: “make love to them” as it would have conveyed my intent more clearly, while still conveying thoughts or assumptions that could be questioned.

I used a personal experience to buttress a set of general principles gleaned primarily from women.  I totally “get” that some women would be uncomfortable with the question, and guess what? A really good question might have been: “how do you avoid asking a question like that of the wrong person?” (or: is it even possible?)

If THAT isn’t the 64 thousand dollar question, I don’t know what is.  An excellent question, which is actually a version of “how can you ask a question like that without giving offense?”

May I back up a bit before answering?  If you’ll let me do that, I think I can explain.

Here is an assertion only a lunatic would make: “human beings should not request sex of each other unless they’ve already had sex.”    That statement is an extinction-level event, clearly.

So the real question is: “under what circumstances may one human being ask another for sex?”  And THAT question has been debated and interpreted by every culture in every time, and about 99.99% of the human beings who have ever lived on the planet. It is a GREAT question.  And my answer would be:

The rules under which one human being may request sex from another differ by acquaintance, rapport, level of mutual attraction, availability, relationship, time, place, frame of mind, culture, and other factors.    Sensitivity and courtesy must be maintained, and refusal is the right of any human  being, and should be accepted with good grace and as a learning opportunity.”

If you can find fault with that statement, PLEASE tell me where.  Because it is that basic premise that underlies everything I have ever said or done in relationship with women, from my first kiss to my current marriage.  If we agree that this statement is acceptable, the rest is who, what, where, why, and how.

I can believe you would have thought the question was creepy.  But I’ll make a bet: out of 100 women, if you ask “can I have sex with you?” you will get fewer “yes” responses than if you ask “do I have permission to dream about having sex with you?”

And if THAT is true (and wouldn’t that be an interesting social experiment?  I sure think it would) then the rest is: who do you ask? How do you ask? Under what circumstances is it permissible to ask?  How do you frame the question?  How do you gain trust and rapport?  

And so forth. In other words, the exact same questions one would ask about the actual physical act, only asking the person involved to take less risk.

And since we’ve established that this question has been asked countless billions of times through history, with endless rules and principles and social conventions around it, ranging from raunchy to courtly to “creepy and disturbing” to romantic, from direct to oblique,  it is obvious that there are both positive and negative ways to ask, appropriate and inappropriate, polite and ghastly.

No one on that thread, and I mean NO ONE, asked me the who, what, where, why, when, or how of it.  If you imagine I’m saying: “hey!  There’s a woman on the street I’ve never seen. Like to jump her bones!” and I walked over to her and said “hey, baby, can I screw you in my dreams tonight?” you are making an interesting set of assumptions.

If you agree with the basic premise: ““The rules under which one human being may request sex from another differ by acquaintance, rapport, level of mutual attraction, availability, relationship, time, place, frame of mind, culture, and other factors.    Sensitivity and courtesy must be maintained, and refusal is the right of any human  being, and should be accepted with good grace and as a learning opportunity.”

Then ask me anything you want about what precisely was going on, how I derived my rules of engagement, or anything else. I can promise you one thing: I didn’t learn them from men.  You can certainly say that the women in my family, my circle, whose articles and books on the subject I read, and who I observed were all a limited set.  That would be true.  But then any set of human knowledge is limited, so it is also not as relevant as it might seem.

I had one single intent: to be courteous and polite, to go beyond the call of duty in being absolutely certain my actions toward women were as clear and kind and loving as they could possibly be.  That’s it.  Period.   If you accept my basic premise, ask anything you want.  If you don’t accept it, please tell me where you find a flaw.



Ask a blind midget

Wow.  Woke up this morning having passed a minor threshold, and feeling good about it: by closing the doors on the Lifewriting: Revolutionary Writing class I can step out of “marketing” mode and just concentrate on helping people and having fun for the holidays, with no obligation to “ramp up” again until next year.  Yaay!  We will have a link to a waiting list available soon. But not now.  Right now I’m drinking tea and enjoying my morning.


“Is it worse to be X or Y?”   That question gets asked a lot, with various psychographic and demographic categories for each variable.  Sometimes it is difficult to find an answer (“is it worse to be dead or insane?”) because there simply isn’t enough data available, and we fall back on individual opinions.  Probably not the best example, but like I said, I’m just waking up.

But I do remember people saying things like: “is it worse to be caught in a sandstorm or a snowstorm?” and the obvious answer was: “I don’t know.  Find five people who have been caught in both and ask them.”

And it became more interesting when people claimed that one group, defined by race, gender, ethnicity, income, age, physical disability, nationality, or whatever, had it worse than another group.  At one party where, frankly, inebriation had become the evening’s thematic core,  “Midgets have it worse than blind people…” was offered as a thesis.  

And I came back with: “why not ask a blind midget?”  I mean, someone with both characteristics would probably be able to tell you which “issue” was more onerous.  I remember the room laughing, and I was accused of being rather nuts, but in rather more scatological and obscene terms.  But it did seem to me that if you asked five blind midgets which was more of a hinderance, and they all agreed on an answer, it would be reasonable to draw a tentative conclusion.

What was interesting was two other comparisons: gay, or female, and black.  I’d heard each  described as being more of a problem.   The fascinating thing that happened  when I said: “well, why not ask ten black gay people which is more painful?” or “why not as ten black women which is more problematic?” was the response.   Some did a kind of Scooby take (ur??) and actually did it.  Frankly, I’d not done the exercise myself, and I was curious what the answer might be (yeah, I’ve done it since that time).   But some got angry, claiming that one couldn’t get an honest answer because, um…well

My, my.    It was rather obvious that someone had a preconceived notion they didn’t want questioned. Or…that they really didn’t care about the answer, they simply wanted to win the argument.    They wanted points for their team, to control the conversation, or shut an opponent down.

It was years before I encountered the formal notion that there are different kinds of argumentation, and that two major divisions are:

  1. Arguing to win.  This is the political arguer.
  2. Arguing to determine “what is true?”  This is the philosophical arguer.

Of course, political folks can be honest inquirers, and philosophers can be dishonest asses, so I’m not drawing a clear line.

But over the years, its been a very useful tool.  The truth is that sometimes it IS good and useful to know which of two life circumstances is more advantageous or limiting. And it seems to me that if you ask multiple people who are in both groups what their experience has been, you have approached truth in a responsible and effective fashion.  There are others, of course: things like objective standards of life span, income, inherited wealth, infant mortality.  Subjective standards like indices of life satisfaction across hundreds or thousands of respondents.

But that’s tricky, because the politicized will tend to argue backwards from a premise, or in this case, to select standards that favor their argument.  Is there an answer to that?  Well…if you have used that standard to extract perspective and you got an answer that defeated your argument in a painful way, I have more respect for your use of it in another context.  (Yeah, this happened to me using World Health Organization standards of general population health like life extension and infant mortality to evaluate the health of blacks in South Africa under Apartheid compared to the neighboring countries.  Oops.)  

Anyway, for those interested in such things, that tactic of finding people who bridge both groups and asking THEM, and actually listening to what they say, has been valuable, and some of the answers I’ve received have stood me well for decades.   Give it a try.



The “Machine”, once built in any arena, supplies a beautifully direct and simple route to success.   One of the invariable truths is that you will break down at some point.   If you set a goal of two stories a month, you will reach your publishing goals within four years–guaranteed. If you have any self-image or emotional block issues, you will either grow and expand…or you will break the “chain” of action.  In the first case, GREAT!  You’re on your way!

But more likely, you’ll find yourself “forgeting” to write, failing to finish, or not able to put your stories in the mail and keep them there.  You might fail to read, which is a “soft” way of decreasing likelihood of success (“I’m too busy to read”) or simply forget the whole thing after five or six stories.

The trick is that if you will step out of guilt, blame, and shame and simply look at where the break-down occurred, you will find that you have a superb diagnostic.   Once you know WHERE the problem is, you have a good guess about WHAT the problem is.

One of the most frequent is the third step in the “Hero’s Journey” (and I hope you are starting to see how these different models interact and overlap): “Accepting the challenge”.

Have you accepted the challenge to write, and write, and write, and learn, and submit, and handle rejection, and keep to the process until you have reached your own maximum expression?  Just saying “Yes I do!” makes a big difference—you can then see what stops you. Is it fear?  Lack of clarity?  Lack of belief?  Motivation?   Time management?  

Here’s what I promise you: whatever stops you has stopped you in other arenas of life.   GUARANTEED.  Habits generalize, spread like yeast in bread dough from one area to another. And this is why working on core characteristics, working on a “machine” in all three-four basic arenas of your life at the same time, is so damned hard, and so damned useful.  You see patterns, and once seen, if you commit to heal it, any success in one arena automatically propagates to the others.  Body, Career, Relationships, and Finances are a dynamite set.  Handle these, and everything else flows from them as emergent qualities.  The “Program Minimum” (a term stolen from Pavel Tsatsouline of Kettlebell fame) might be:

  1. Body: Three reps each of Five Tibetans in Morning Ritual.  
    Goal is 21 reps of each.
  2. Career: One sentence per day, speak goals aloud during Morning Ritual.  Goal is 1-4 stories a month.
  3. Relationship: Five Minute Miracle of sixty-second “breathing breaks” once every three hours. Alternate with five minutes of Heartbeat Meditation in the mornings three days a week.  Goal is a “Diamond Hour” of self-care every day.
  4. Finances: 1% of income placed in retirement account weekly.  Goal is 10%

These will work.  Look for the ways you lie to yourself and say you don’t have the time.  If you had the time to read this, you had the time.  Look at the excuses for not writing a sentence, or performing three Tibetans, or stopping to breathe, or saving 1% of your income.

Each of these practices is hugely generative.  All of them are such low bars that if you can lay down and stand up, and have the resources to read these words, you CAN do all of them. But you WON’T unless you have full internal permission to grow and change.

Using these as measures allows you to see where you need to “patch” your energy.  If you have the courage to write your findings down, you are on the right path. If you can share them with just one other person, better still.  BUT IF YOU CAN MAKE A PUBLIC DECLARATION, and request support from a “Mastermind” which you commit to support in return, you have struck gold.

The choice is yours. The new year begins in four weeks.   And a year after that, you will either be a year older…or a year older AND closer to your goals.

Which do you choose?



(p.s.–the opportunity to join our  Lifewriting group ends tonight, and will remain closed until February.   We focus on applying these principles to life, and specifically to writing.    The first module, the “Revolutionary Writing” section for writers committed to making a social contribution, concludes today at 3pm pst, with an interview with Daniel Jose Older.   All past modules will then be available on the site for watching at your convenience.  You will also have the opportunity to be part of the short story “hot seat”.   Within the next couple of days we’ll choose a story, contact the winner (or victim!) and give everyone a chance to read it. Then we’ll have a teleseminar where we analyze the story and your writing process, showing you how to look at story from the Lifewriting perspective.  I charged private clients five hundred dollars a month for this, and I can’t wait to share it with the Lifewriting group!)

Teacher in America

Reading Jacques Barzun’s meditation on teaching and learning at the behest of Jerry Pournelle.  A brilliant paragraph presented itself:

“Teaching is possible only because there is a dialogue and one part of the mind can be used to rearrange the other. The whole secret of teaching–and it is no secret–consists  in splitting the opposition, downing the conservatives by making an alliance with the radicals.  It goes without saying that I am not using these words here in their workaday sense. My meaning applies to the multiplication table as well as to anything else. The conservative part of the pupil’s mind is passive, stubborn, mute, but his radical minority, that is, his curiosity and his desire to grow up, may be aroused to action.   The move forward is generally short; then the conservatives return to power; they preserve, they feel pride of ownership in the new acquisition and begin to think they had it as a birthright.  This rhythmical action is one reason why teaching and learning must not go on all the time, nor at an accelerated pace: time and rest are needed for absorption. Psychologists confirm the fact when they tell us that it is really in summer that our muscles learn how to skate, and in winter how to swim.”

One could unpack this paragraph endlessly, especially if you refuse to either take umbrage or pat oneself on the back regarding the political implications.  It implies a wholeness, a relation between the aspects of our individual minds, inter-personal communication, and our society, that lends perspective and can trigger “ah hah” moments.   Really, really good thinking there.


Steven Barnes




Everything connected to everything

Friday is “Success” day, a time for looking into our goals and the means to their accomplishment.  As I said a couple of days ago, the FIRST thing to do is to actually HAVE goals.  WRITE THEM DOWN.  This is a half-way point between a dream and an accomplishment.  Just this step allows you to define the territory.

As a kid, I had three goals:

  1. A writing career
  2. Martial arts expertise
  3. A family to love.

That was it.  Mind/career (writing), body (martial arts expertise) and my emotions (family).  Dan Moran convinced me that I’d needed a fourth: financial security.  Damn, I missed that one.   Made a ton  of money, but never held onto it.  

Now look at “the Machine” applied to each one.

Writing: a story a month/week.

Martial Arts: Three classes a week

Emotions: Daily Heartbeat Meditation

And the “Minimum step”, the absolute least I can do every day that keeps me on my path?

  1. One sentence written a day/one page read a day
  2. Tai Chi/Joint mobility daily
  3. “Five Minute Miracle”–one minute deep breathing every three hours, while feeling my heartbeat and visualizing my goals.
  4. Every week transfer at least 1% of what’s in my checking account into my retirement account.

How do I motivate myself?  Each of the three is connected to the other two.   “Psychotensegrity” so to speak.   Writing teaches me honest expression, makes money to support my family and creates “tribe”, enables me to have the time I need to practice MA.  Martial Arts gives me energy and integrity, as well as grounding philosophical notions into reflexive action.  And meditation gives me energy and clarity to put into my relationships, writing, and motion.  Money gives me the security I need to move out of the “stress tunnel” and see the options most in alignment with my deep values.

Everything connected to everything else.  

EXERCISE: Define your most important three-four arenas.  Gain clarity on how each of them supports all of the others.



Why didn’t I do this before?

My story “Fifty Shades of Grays” was just chosen for Gardner Dozois’ “best SF of the year 34” anthology.    Yaaay!   I’d concentrated on writing novels and screenplays for…well, decades.  I’d missed the fun of the shorter forms, and have a backlog of endless stories for which I’d never found expression.   So I set myself a “Machine” goal just to move my work to the next level, and that means short work.  This is the kind of signal you’re looking for that you’re heading in the right direction.    Remember the “Machine” pattern to move you to the next level:

  1. Write 1-4 stories a month
  2. Put it in the mail
  3. Keep it in the mail until it sells
  4. Don’t re-write except to editorial request
  5. Read 10X what you write
  6. Repeat 100 times

Speaking of the Hero’s Journey, yesterday we looked at the first step, “Confronted with a challenge”.  The second step is “rejection”–usually caused by fear.  The fear will either be direct and obvious, or it might be the fear of change, which can jump on you even when the event is positive (a new job, a marriage, etc.)

What stopped me from creating a new ‘machine’ before?  (My first one was used to break into the field)

  1. The belief that I didn’t have the time to write short work.  Too busy making a living writing books!
  2. The fear of rejection. Yep.   Its still floating around in there.  Part of me hates getting those little notes.
  3. Fear that I don’t have the time to read fiction.  Oh, yeah.  That comes up. I’m so busy reading non-fiction! Don’t bother me.
  4. And the “hidden law” of step #5 is that your reading should be “one level up” from your chosen success goal.  When in doubt, Shakespeare. Whatever you consider the “best of the best.”  And sometimes, this feels more like “work” than “fun.” And dammit, I DON’T WANNA WORK!

Sigh. And so it goes.   But every time I get a little positive feedback, I know that however far I am from my goal, I seem to be moving in the right direction.

Write with passion!


Only Seventy-Two Hours Left!

Greetings!  We cannot wait to welcome you to our last session of the REVOLUTIONARY WRITING  module.  That’s this Saturday December 3rd at 3pm pst, where our guest will be writer   Daniel José Older, the New York Times bestselling author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series.  He is a former student of Tananarive, and I can’t wait to hear THAT conversation!

As you know the registration for this module will close Saturday at midnight (oh, all right, it might last until I get up Sunday morning) so if you have friends who you think would want to be a part, send them this email so that they can be a part of the Webinar “live”, although it will be online for later study.

While we stop taking new people until February, we’ll be working to take care of our current members: that means YOU.   Streamlining all processes.  Personal phone calls to selected members.  Special mailings, teleconferences, webinars.  And planning for what you need next.  YOU are this community, and we never want to forget it.

“Lifewriting” is the application of the Hero’s Journey to both writing and life. The “Revolutionary Writing” class is a specific adaptation of this idea to philosophical and political storytelling, especially the arena of “Social Justice”.  We will have other modules for our members: the next will be Screenwriting, some time after the holidays.  Others might be science fiction, horror, business and marketing…we want to provide a full toolbox, moving from live webinars and teleseminars to facilitated “mastermind” groups on the site.

Our intent is very clear: Changing and healing the world, using the power of storytelling.  The strategy is to create one million awake, aware, adult human beings.  The specific tactic is to support one thousand awake, aware, adult storytellers.  And the Lifewriting site is our method of choice to do this.

If this is NOT you, if you mock the idea of social justice, this is NOT for you.   But if you believe that communication is vital, and that the marketplace of ideas needs to thrive for our nation and world to prosper, that personal integrity in expression is intimately connected with the ability to heal and evolve our families, our communities, our nation and our world…Please take a look.  

For the next 72 hours, you can sample everything we have for only ONE DOLLAR.  Poke around for a month, and if you don’t agree that this is for you, cancel with no hard feelings.

If you are already a member, and haven’t gone onto the site and introduced yourself in the Forum section, please do so!  Make comments.  Once we’re finished with this first class, we have so many things we want to implement:

–new downloads monthly.  Lifewriting has thousands of dollars of backlogged products, and I want to provide ALL of it to our group, free of charge!

–member “spotlights” where we teleconference and speak life and art as applied to individual concerns

–New   information every week.

–new interviews and insights.

–contests and “hotseat” sessions for your writing.

This is a community, and communities grow when you reach out to each other.   Please take the time today to introduce yourself, be sure you can sign on to the Revolutionary Writing group, and let us know if you have any problems at all.  If you do, we’ll bend over backwards to fix it!

Write With Passion!


The Power of Story in Life

I recently sat a friend down who was concerned about career issues. Specifically, money.  I could have talked about marketing, which is the source of money-making.   Or the Five-Fold Path,  which is a powerful source of motivations and support for the journey to excellence and success.   Or “The Machine” which, adapted to career enhancement, lays out a definite path of action.  Or the “MAGIC Formula,” which is always a dynamic  place to start:

Magic = Action (daily) X Gratitude X Intention (Goals) X Conviction (faith).  Why?  Because “broken links” here show up most glaringly, and I know that without all four chunks, everything falls apart.    And ALL the links were broken.   As I suspected, my friend knew what he DIDN’T want, but not; what he wanted.   Had no faith, and was feeling depressed.   Focus in on what he wanted, and the vaguer he got.  He could discuss feelings, the urge to contribute and be appreciated, the need to make “more money” than he was currently earning.  

But no pathway at all.

So I needed a place to start.  If he will take this first step, it can open the door to everything needed to do and be to reach happiness.   What I said was to write it down.  WRITE DOWN WHAT HE WANTS.    If he does this, it will automatically make things easier.   

Once he writes his goals down, one of the most powerful exercises in the entire Lifewriting system is the “Future History”.  This is your Life Story, from today until the day you die. Everything you want to be, and have, and do.  It is often written in the form of a eulogy, or an obituary.  Take it all the way to the moment of death.    Now re-write with the Hero’s Journey in mind.  Let’s take this just one piece at a time.

  1. HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE. The primary challenges that must be overcome to reach your goals. In a good story, the “external” challenge is mirrored by an “internal” challenge.  We must grow in order to achieve.  There is often a difference between what a character “wants” and what they “need.”  Remember what Mick Jagger said.  The inner and outer journeys always mirror each other.  In any good story, both exist.   And in any life, you CANNOT change your external circumstances without changing your INTERNAL representations.  Just cannot.

The “external” is “what is true?”  But the internal is “who am I?”  If you see yourself as the person who can accomplish your goals, ARE YOU DOING THE THINGS SUCH A PERSON DOES?

If not, you aren’t that person. And will need to become that person to succeed.  That’s your challenge: to clarify what you want, and see if you are willing to do the things people do to achieve that goal.  If you aren’t, no sin.  You can choose another goal.

But be CLEAR on what you want.    All else flows from this. I know some people who just “zen” their way to success.  To a level. In other words, they are simply doing things that are already within their competency. But when they want to jump a level? It takes goals.  Focus.  Drive.  Planning.  Emotional control.  Allies. The “Hero’s Journey” taken to a personal level.

I would suggest a clear goal in each of the core areas: money, fitness/health, love, and career.  The clearer the better. A great way to do this is to imagine your perfect mate, with ZERO compromises. Not what you think you can get, but what you drool over.   Your secret fantasy.  This is for you and you alone, not to be shared with anyone.  What is the level of beauty, power, emotional health, success, wealth, personal integrity, sensuality of this person?


Now…ask what that person is looking for.  IF YOU HAVE BEEN HONEST, what you describe is likely to be your own secret wish. What you’d really like to be.  All you need to do it take all rational actions to move in that direction, and you are self-actualizing.    You are “Becoming”, and “Becoming” always releases energy as your illusions are burned away.

Start with the goal. Be specific, even if it is frightening. This is the first step, if you want to be the Hero in the adventure of your own lifetime.







The Best Advice I Never Got

My last panel at the recent Loscon science fiction convention was on “The best advice I never got”.  In other words, what I wish someone had told me when I began my career.

NO question about it, what I wish someone had given me was “The Machine” that I’ve synthesized from the advice of a half-dozen writers, central among them Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein:

  1. Write 1-4 stories a month.
  2. Put them in the mail
  3. Keep them in the mail until they sell
  4. Don’t rewrite except to editorial request
  5. Read 10x as much as you write
  6. Repeat until you reach story #100

ONE HUNDRED STORIES   You scream?  “Where am I going to get all those ideas?”

Ideas are everywhere.  In fact, the problem is almost NEVER a lack of ideas. The problem is generally a lack of ideas you think are “good enough.”  Well, the truth is that the best way to have a good idea is to have a LOT of ideas.   Your ability to distinguish “good” from “bad” will refine as you go.

The important thing is to GET STARTED and KEEP GOING. To be writing every day. To familiarize yourself with all of the golems and demons that will jump out of the shadows and try to stop you.  To avoid the bloat that occurs when beginners try to write novels and trilogies.  Short stories are where you develop your skill. They are “going to school”. Novels are your job, where you will get paid.

The most important thing about “The Machine” is that it tells you what to do TODAY to advance your career.  You can read books, study with teachers, form or find reading groups, experiment with style, find agents and meet editors.  All of those things are important, and you will develop your own route to success in each. But most importantly TAKE ACTION.  

That’s the first step, isn’t it?  TAKE ACTION. Every day. Day after day.   You will feel tired, frightened, bored, frustrated, distracted, and everything else.   TAKE ACTION anyway.   

If possible, find a partner, someone to confide in and share your journey, otherwise it becomes more difficult to stay on the path.   TAKE ACTION.  

  Which step of the “Machine” is your greatest strength?  Greatest weakness? Your answers will determine your future.

Write with passion!


(P.s.–you only have three more days to enter the Lifewriting program at the “Firesale” cost of only ONE DOLLAR for the first month.  Cancel any time.   We’re wrapping up the “Revolutionary Writing” module this Saturday, and would love for you to be a part.  Registration will be CLOSED until next February, so that we can take care of our current students, and help them with the care and feeding of their own “Machines”.  Join us, or let any writer friends know about this amazing opportunity!

Why “The Hero’s Journey”?

wonderwoman-0Almost 30 years ago, I had the insight that the “Hero’s Journey” pattern found in all world fiction was universal because it reflected the path to human action.  That in essence you could fill in the known aspects of the pattern, and the unknowns would suggest themselves, much as if you have three points on a circle, you can fill in the rest of the curve.

The door to excellence is flow state.  And flow state is achieved by addressing a task difficult enough to demand your full attention, but not so taxing that it creates frustration and panic.  Keith Kato (physicist, Shotokan expert and chili cook!) told me a story about visiting the Shotokan karate headquarters in Tokyo.  There, he saw an advanced class where for hours the students, all experts, went up and down across the floor performing just three techniques.  I believe it was a reverse punch, a front kick, and a back-knuckle.   Hundreds and hundreds of repetitions, over and over again.  Deadly dull to the untrained eye. To the aware?  Simply deadly.

There is the story of the cat and the fox meeting in the forest, chased by dogs. The cat was scared, the fox calm.  “Why aren’t you scared?” the cat said.  The fox said: “oh, I’m not worried.   I know a hundred ways to get away from dogs.”  “Wow,” the cat said.  “I only know one.”

The dogs came.  The fox was so paralyzed trying to figure out which of his hundred techniques to use that he was torn to pieces.

The cat ran up the tree.


There are countless plot structures that are used and taught. Most of them are useful, none of them are a substitute for actual writing, any more than a map is ever the same as the territory. But maps are useful, and so are plots.

But just as so long as you’re going “one two three, one two three” as you move, you simply aren’t dancing until the counting is forgotten, you aren’t writing as long as you are limited by the plot structure.  Story is a living thing.  So MY approach is to choose a plot structure that we already know, that we understand intimately if unconsciously.   As soon as you’ve made the conscious connection between the story pattern and the life pattern, you see that you’ve known this all your life, in all your actions, and in every movie or television episode you’ve ever watched.   

And that accelerates the process of transferring the information from conscious to unconscious mind, which speeds the rate at which you can forget the pattern, and just “feel” what you are doing.  If you run into problems, you can retreat to the pattern–it is always there.  But what you really want is simply to write, and enjoy writing.

What we are going to do in the “Hotseat” sessions is look at the story from the inside-out and the outside-in.   Character, plot, theme, poetics, intent, dominating emotions.   This is not an “is it good” analysis (although that sometimes comes in) but an evaluation of process as much as product.  If your PROCESS is sound, then eventually your product will reach your maximum expression. You will be as good as YOU can be, and no one can ask more than that if you embrace the experience of art.

If you’d like your story to be considered, please post a paragraph describing it on the “Hotseat submission” thread on the Masteryplus site.  All Lifewriting Premium and Revolutionary Art folks should have access, and if you don’t please drop us a note at

If you’d like to join, you have four more days before we close the doors until February.  Behind those closed doors we want to concentrate on helping our current students.  There is now SO much value on the site, well over THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS in downloads and online classes, available for only ONE DOLLAR for the first month.  All we ask is that you actually give us a chance to help you.

Write with passion!

Steven Barnes