Envy the Fool
In my quest to become a bona fide writer, I started doing research on story structure, character development and basic marketplace tactics. Having been in sales for two decades, I recognized that there are probably two kinds of writers out there: ones who write because it's their passion and they have a story to tell, and ones who are good at storytelling, understand what the market wants, and write that.
I decided that I wanted to do both, and that I don't have time to waste in writing that first crappy passion project novel that gets rejected 376 times while I work on something else that, after having caught the eye of some editor or agent somewhere and following their advice, is the novel that can really sell.
So I attended my few first writing conferences, took notes ad nauseam, paid attention to what was being said (and what wasn't being said), and started sketching stories in a way that fits the patterns of our lives.
In the last six months, I have been intrigued by the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. I have bought every book I could get my hands on about the way we, as humans, relate to story. I have googled archetypes, studied symbology, dissected stories and started identifying things in my 'real life' based upon their place in 'story'. I am amazed at the connections between belief systems and religions with fiction and fables.
Some of my most interesting research has been about the Kabbalah and tarot, and how the cards from the Major Arcana are a perfect description of the fool's journey- or the hero's journey- however you like to think of it.
Regardless of your view of the occult, the symbols and stories that exist are prolific. To understand why we, as humans, will love one story and identify with the characters and really connect to them, but are completely bored by another, we have to understand patterns and cycles. There are cycles in absolutely everything, from the cells in our bodies to our organs to our environment to the universe surrounding us. When we recognize a pattern or cycle in something else that resonates with us, we intuitively bond to it; this is why Marvel has produced twenty-three films since Ironman debuted in 2008. It's why prequels and sequels and trilogies sell so well, and why we're all so depressed when a television series ends. We all envy the Fool.
Every good story begins with the faultless hero, the blank slate, the pure unadulterated presence of potential. And, if you follow the archetypes, the tarot, every Bible story ever told, every ancient story in every ancient culture, then what happens next is a call to action. Then, in an order that begins to present the pattern we all live in, the following occur: a resistance, a choice, an education, a battle, a building of allies, another conflict, a resolution, a betrayal, more conflict, more resolution, a last ditch effort, and a return.
It's amazing to me that the fool and the hero are one and the same, because we all con ourselves into believing that heroes are apart from us; that they are separate entities, fictional beings. We tell ourselves they're the bearer of the story and no matter how personal our connection to them seems, they're not real.
But the fool? We have no trouble believing in this role in our lives. We take leaps of faith and make choices and make friends and lose friends. We fight and make up, we try and fail, and we're lucky if we eventually see a pattern in our lives that needs to change. But we don't often give ourselves the kind of credit we need to change it. Part of us- the part that Jung would refer to as the Shadow Side- is content to ignore the call to action and actively retreats from stepping into the shoes of the hero.
And this is why we favor fiction. It's why we break the internet over Game of Thrones and block people who post spoiler alerts. We're part of the story whether we care to acknowledge it or not.
I realized kind of inadvertently that the task of becoming a best-selling novelist isn't exactly about how well you write, or the genre, or even capitalizing on whatever trope the market is currently insatiable for... it's about capturing a slice of a story that's being told seven billion times every day on this planet, by every person who looks in the mirror and sees a fool instead of a hero.
Carl Jung was convinced that our subconscious is the invisible network that connects us to the patterns in story. What you need, and the answers you seek for your own life, are all held by the heroes (or fools) you admire. You don't just like that story, you connect to that story. And you connect, because the story isn't just a story...
It's your story.