Wednesday, September 7, 2011

VP4W 1 The Dependent World

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

The arc of the Virgin's Promise, like the Hero's Journey, begins in a community. But where the hero must leave the community in order to protect it, the virgin's cycle of growth and self-discovery takes place within the community. The hero is motivated by a belief that the community is worth preserving. In contrast, the virgin's story begins in a community so intent on preserving its ways that it has woven a web of constricting expectations around the virgin. This web has the effect, whether intended or not, of keeping the virgin dependent and compliant.

This is how Kim Hudson*describes the virgin's Dependent World:
"The Virgin's journey begins with an introduction to the world upon which she is dependent, in which a part of her is lying dormant. The Dependent World is an external authority that provides for the Virgin's existence. It can be a parental, familial, cultural, or spiritual world that the virgin landed in before she knew independent choice."
The young, those who have too little (or too much), and those who are isolated depend on others for physical survival. The virgin may depend on some people to protect her from other people in her society. She may be in a situation where the love she needs depends on her conformity. Many societies have developed attitudes, mores, and conventions that enforce dependence because they depend upon the affected people to fulfill their roles and conform to expectations.**

It is almost always the case that the virgin's dependent world is not so much malevolent as too constricting. The community doesn't need to be overthrown, just adjusted. Put another way, much of the inner conflict the virgin suffers in coming phases arises precisely because she doesn't want to sacrifice the good in her dependent world.

As writers, most of us are past the stage in life (youth) where we depend directly on others. However, many of us have dependents. The people in our world generally depend on us not writing. Whether breadwinner or caregiver, none of those who depend upon us will think spending thousands of hours putting words on paper with no guarantee of a return is a good idea. And for our part, spending our time and attention on the people who depend on us is a good thing: in our Dependent World, the community and our relationships in it matter to us.

But before we were Mom or Dad, we were someone else. And while we love being Mom or Dad, that's not the sum and total of our identity. Yet we often feel guilty about all the things we're not doing when we read parenting advice.

If this rings true, congratulations: you understand the Dependent World and the beginning of the arc of the Virgin's Promise.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

**In many societies, for example, women have the primary responsibility for transmitting culture and traditions to the next generation. Those societies often have powerful sanctions to keep women from taking on roles that would interfere with the transmission process.

Image: Simon Howden /

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