Wednesday, October 12, 2011

VP4W 6 No Longer Fits Her World

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

Growth. At a macro level, economists tell us it's the only real answer to our financial problems. At a micro level, an endless parade of self-help gurus promise us the secret to personal growth.

There's much less discussion of the consequences of growth. Regardless of the scale, whether populations and economies or waistlines, unchecked growth in a finite context means we will inevitable get too big for our britches.

The Virgin's Promise captures a pattern of personal growth. The inevitable consequence of exploring possibilities in Dresses the Part and nurturing her dream in her Secret World is that the Virgin grows and comes to realize that she No Longer Fits Her World.

Kim Hudson* characterizes this phase as an increasingly precarious balancing act:
"Through spending time in her Secret World, the Virgin increases her power in the form of self-knowledge, and starts to see her dream as a possible reality. It is also becoming clear to the Virgin that she cannot juggle these two world forever."
In dramatic terms, because the Virgin No Longer Fits Her World, she inevitably does something that puts either her Dependent World or her Secret World at risk. It may be as simple as deciding the task of achieving her dream is too hard and her Dependent World isn't that bad after all. Or, at the other end of the spectrum she may find her dream within her grasp and be put off by the prospect of losing her Dependent World. The Virgin may also become reckless or attract attention in some other way.

Whether the source of the dramatic tension is internal or external, it is a fundamental consequence of growth.

Writers, particularly if their efforts have met with some success, inevitably reach the point where they feel as though they've outgrown both their dependent and secret worlds. The siren song of the full-time writer is the single greatest temptation: think of how much more you could accomplish if you didn't have to divide your time with a day job.

If you're struggling with that temptation, step back and take a deep breath. In the vast majority of cases, it would be reckless to quit your day job. But beyond good advice, as someone who can see the entire arc of a story, you should recognize that you're going through a stage like this beat in the Virgin's Promise. The tension you feel between the safety of your old world and the alluring possibilities of the new writerly world is exactly what you should be feeling. Of course, saying it doesn't make it any easier, but perhaps if you recognize the structural source of your concern you can at least avoid anything rash or hasty.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /


  1. Interesting. How do you have time write and come up with all these posts?

  2. That's always a good question.

    In the particular case of this series on the Virgin's Promise, Kim Hudson and her book of the same name provided the source material and the inspiration.

    You've probably heard that the best way to learn something is to teach it. In that vein, these posts have given me the opportunity to work though my own thought and reactions, and to solidify my understanding of a common but heretofore poorly articulated story arc.


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