Why Protagonists Must Always SUFFER and a Friday Koan for YOU

I’m afraid my story is flawed from the start because even assuming that I am the protagonist of this blog (and who else would seriously want to be?), this blog suffers from other serious storytelling violations.

Writing Rule #1: Protagonists ALWAYS MUST SUFFER:

wet unappy cat

Protagonists must ALWAYS suffer!

But quite apart from my aversion to undue pain and general unwillingness to suffer as true heroines must, this blog has another problem: my goals are far too squishy to form the spine of a good story.

Let’s face it.  What precisely am I seeking here?  Health, Love, Adventure, Abundance, Beauty, Wisdom, Self-Actualization??  (See my “About Page” for my  slightly sarcastic thoughts on becoming Wonderful, Wealthy & Wise.)  Despite the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert earned big bucks for the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love, none of my fluffy aspirations usually work in movies because they are non-specific, internal goals (i.e., not cinematic).  And in real life, Tony Robbins would say they’re not even decent goals, because they aren’t measurable.

At least I have one solid story element going for me: a deadline.

December 21, 2012 is just 139 days away.

So what do I hope to achieve before then?  The travel schedule* is still in development, but this is the least of my problems.

(*For those of you who simply can’t stand being left in the dark, here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: playboy clubs and family confrontations  celebrations in Bridesmaids’ territory (Lake Geneva, WI) later this month, equine therapy on a dude ranch in Arizona in September, various adventures in London, Stone Henge, Paris & Normandy in October, the first international Baja Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas in November, and an as yet undetermined location (help by voting!) for my end-of-the-world/45th-birthday celebration on 12/21/12.  Plus, various writing & wine tasting (the only way to write!) adventures in California will be interspersed throughout.)

But what are my specific, achievable, external goals during the next 139 days?  (Believe it or not, this is NOT Tony Robbins speak, but rather screenwriting lingo.)  Here goes:

  • I want to re-write my three screenplays to a presentable level and land an agent.
  • I want to stop feeling guilty for no longer practicing law.  (Shoot, that’s  a pesky internal goal again …)
  • I want my work to pay for my travels, so that I’m not just another trophy wife.  (Is that an external or internal goal?)
  • I want to move to an oceanview home.   (We’re 2.5 miles away now, but those miles cost A LOT, even in this economy.)

Frankly, I have no idea whether these goals are achievable by 12/21/12, but there you have it:  I’ve at least stated my desires publicly and assigned a deadline.  (Tony, you would be so proud!)

But here’s the problem:  Protagonists must always suffer.   Remember the myth of Prometheus and ChironRomeo and Juliet?  Without suffering, there is no story.

 

Chiron saves Prometheus

Chiron saves Prometheus

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, despite what all the gurus say (right before asking you to spend $20K on a “personal intensive”  day with them …)  If I truly want these things (and if I truly did, wouldn’t I already have them?), I’m going to have to spend my time and energy wisely, and be prepared to make some sacrifices.  Just watch any movie; the downfall of the protagonist before she finally sees the light is almost always due to her wanting to gain the most while giving up the least.   (This may sound great in a motivational seminar, but would bore a movie audience to tears.)

Which brings me to the promised Friday KoanWho Are You Without Your Story?

We are all so attached to our stories; and no wonder, neuroscientists now say that attaching meaning to what happens to us is no less a survival skill than learning to run from bears.  Not only do we learn from our pasts, but our very memories are constantly reshaped in order to bring sense to what is happening in our lives right now.

The beauty of Zen koans is that they have no answer.  Or better said, only YOU know the answer.  So, if you could let go of being the protagonist (even for just a second) in your own story, how would that feel?  Is there a suffering you could let go of?  How would that feel?

And isn’t that feeling alone worth it?  Even if you never get that agent or oceanview home or (fill in your goals here: __________________)?

Happy Friday …

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