Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Identity vs. Essence

At the M&M Conference, special guest speaker Michael Hauge presented a workshop called Six Stage Plot Structure. He gave us a screenplay-based outline to use in developing our novels, and explained the difference between the "outer journey" - the physical challenges facing our characters - and the "inner journey" - the growth and development of our characters - with a special emphasis on romance. This was extremely helpful to me; afterwards, I was able to pin down numerous holes and flaws in my current work in progress. Using my new tools, I will be able to repair them; never again will I attempt to write a book without at least a simple outline.

What intrigued me most about the workshop, though, was Michael's discussion of our hero's inner journey: the transformation from living fully in one's Identity (his false self that he presents to the world) to living fully in one's Essence (who he has the potential to be if he can find the courage). Of course, the outer journey and the inner journey intertwine. But there is a constant tug-of-war between Identity and Essence. And the only satisfactory conclusion for our characters is living in Essence. Because after glimpsing Essence, Identity is no longer fulfilling.

This was also extremely useful to me where my novel writing is concerned. Because once I was able to pinpoint my character's inner journeys, I could then correlate them to their outer journeys; as Michael explained, they must be structured similarly. In other words, I am rewriting my entire book. I will be able to use much of my previous material, but I am also making some major changes. As a result, my finished book will be vastly improved. Thank you, Michael Hauge!

Perhaps even more important, Michael's workshop gave me pause as I considered my own inner journey, the one that has taken place in my personal life. I thought back ten years, when I was living in the Identity of wife and mother, so emotionally shut down that I was incapable of even knowing, much less expressing, what was missing from my life and my soul. Ancient wounds still inflicted pain on me me; deep-rooted beliefs that prevented me from even considering making changes. I'm still not sure how I found the strength to let go of all that. But once I glimpsed Essence, there was no turning back.

Like the characters in my novel, I am constantly shifting between Identity and Essence. I like to think that Essence is winning, but every now and then something happens - something bad, or something good - which causes me to retreat temporarily into my hollow shell of Identity. But, as Michael explained, one can be safe and unfulfilled, or fulfilled and scared shitless; in the end, there is no middle ground. So I must continue to find healing from the past hurts and let go of the old ways of thinking that hold me back.

Onward into Essence.


Debbie Kaufman said...

One of the biggest revelations you can have is to know when it is identity versus essence. That's a good start. Wish you success in looking back through the old hurts. Painful, but worth it. The next step is seeing what lie we believed about ourselves or others in those painful moments and where that belief system originally came from in our life. That's when we can be freed from those "beliefs" (Ex: Others will never understand me, all anger is wrong, I must...) and see the truth of the situation.

Pam said...

So true, Debbie! I have been divorced for nine years and I am barely recognizable as the person I was in my "previous life." So I have made a lot of progress, but I still have a long way to go. Thank you for your insights!

Raining Roses said...

I have no desire to write a novel (I'm not creative enough), but I'd love to have attended that workshop. I do literature and books, and his approach is quite fascinating.

Pam said...

Pete, I don't think writing a novel requires as much creativity as it does persistence, so if you have no DESIRE to write a novel, that is the only thing keeping you from doing it! Michael Hauge does have CD and DVD versions of his workshop; check his website for more information. It's all really good stuff!

Debra Becht said...

This philosophy is truly very biblical. In fact, we must have those close to us that surround us to make sure that we not only avoid bad decisions but that we are remain authentic. They help us understand and face who we really are and more importantly help us grow into what God plans us to be. My guess is that beautiful Pam has tried to do way way too much of this on her own rather than "burdening" others for help.
I would say to you with all my sole, that those close to you would never view that as a job or burden. In fact, it would be an honor and priviledge to help you find who you are meant to be. Your true friends are so very fortunate to have you in their paths.

Pam said...

Deb, your comment brought tears to my eyes and gave me much to think about. Thank you!

Carol Burnside said...

That was a great workshop, wasn't it? I'd heard a shorter version at RWA Nat'l a couple years ago, but this workshop explained it so much better and in more detail.

It was a treat to ride along when Susan took him to the airport. He volunteered to answer questions and was encouraging about our projects.

Pam said...

Yes, Carol, that was one of the most helpful workshops I have ever attended. I am totally envious that you and Susan had a private audience with Michael! He definitely seemed like he would be a nice person in addition to being as a brilliant writer and teacher.