Oh, I’m having fun over at the Star Wars Saved My Life mailing list. It’s going back to the very beginning of Lifewriting, looking at what I thought about these things years ago, and updating them for a new generation of fans, as well as renewing a conversation with old friends. Here is part of the first email sent out to the group (you can sign up at http://www.swsavedmylife.com)
Greetings! Welcome to the Star Wars Saved My Life mailing list. We really are going to explore what makes these fantastic movies work as well as they do, why we love them, and how you can extract from them genuinely valuable lessons to change your life.
We will apply these ideas to writing (how many of ya want to be writers? Hands, please!) but also other aspects of life.
Become a Jedi? Well…whatever the closest human equivalent is…yes. And if you can get your hands on a vial of midichloreans, who knows!
We’ll start by taking a stroll through Star Wars: A New Hope, and its application of something called the Hero’s Journey. Before we do, a quick note. In the 1960’s and 70’s, cultural
anthropologist Joseph Campbell published a series of studies extracted from a lifetime of cross-cultural, interdisciplinary work on world myth. He found sets of recurring myth patterns, which have been interpreted many ways to many different effects.
I strongly suggest seeking out his original work. With the understanding that I have bent his
thoughts to my own purpose, let’s proceed to look at a version of his most famous idea, the one that George Lucas studied to create that first fabulous movie.
No matter where you go in the world, whether it is to visit with Eskimo shamans, Native
American storytellers, Celtic Bards, African griots or Hollywood screenwriters, there are
great similarities in the stories they tell, probably because the heart of storytelling is the reality
of human life itself, with its relatively predictable pattern of events. This pattern may be the only
“plot structure” that also applies to our own lives, and therefore is incredibly easy to integrate into our work.
The Hero is Confronted with a challenge. “Come with me, Luke: learn the way of the Force.”
This is the critical first step. The steady-state of the lead character is disrupted by a challenge or change from outside of his ordinary world. If this does not happen, there is no story in the traditional sense, although I have certainly seen experimental pieces where there is no challenge, just a depiction of life itself, often in dreary detail. As a story element this is obvious. It is less obvious how this applies to our lives. All living creatures crave homeostasis. We try to remain as we are, for as long as possible. We will change as little as we can.
When writing, ask yourself what your character needs to complete himself in life, why he has
resisted, and what would force him to begin to change.
Then, ask yourself the same questions…about yourself. It is vital to begin the process of linking the work to your own life. This will be difficult at first, but get easier as time goes on.
We want to look at all three major arenas of your life, on the theory that you will be best served by correcting imbalances in body, mind, and emotions.
So ask yourself a few questions to get this ball rolling. NOTE: you don’t need to know how you’ll do it. The first step is admitting you want a given result. Everything else is tactics and strategy!
“Mind” might be measured by efficiency in hunting and gathering. Education and occupation. What challenge have you avoided in the arena of your career? Do you take joy in your occupation? Make enough money? Have you achieved your educational goals?
“Body” is fitness and health. In general, you should want to have enough energy to work hard all week and party on the weekend! Feel GOOD when you wake up in the morning, with optimism and aliveness, and a healthy sex drive. When you strip and look at yourself in the mirror, ask if you would be attracted to you. That is a VERY good question, because it is critical to match your own values, or at least be striving in that direction. Do you?
“Emotions”. I avoid speaking of “spirit” in this context, because that word means too many different things to different people and cultures. But our love connects us to our own hearts, and to the people around us, and the universe as a whole. So…
do you love yourself? Could you look at yourself in the mirror, see the child you used to be and without a hint of irony say “I love you. I will protect you. I am proud of you”? Why or why not?
do you love the relationship you are in? Do you have one? Do you relish your mate, adore her or him? Our relationships are reflections of our self-image, what we think we’re worth.
Why not aspire to having a wonderful career, a healthy dynamic body, and a fulfilling passionate relationship? What if you could have them all by applying the things you learned the very first time you watched STAR WARS?
THAT is what we’re up to here. I’ve achieved all these things, and taught it to others for thirty years. And now I want to share the secrets with you. Just because we are both fans, my friend. Nothing more than that.
May The Force Be With You!