Wednesday, October 26, 2011

VP4W 8 Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

Whether it's a run of irrational investments, an engine pushed past the red line, or a person with more commitments than there are hours in a day, the phrase that often comes up--as true as it is cliché--is, "Something's got to give."

In Caught Shining, the previous beat of the Kim Hudson's* Virgin's Promise, the Virgin's temporary balance of her Dependent and Secret worlds has fallen apart. Now the only way to escape from the wreckage is for something else to give: the Virgin must Give Up What Kept Her Stuck.

Hudson explains:
"[T]he Virgin must sacrifice some of her past to move into her future. Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck is the major turning point in the psychological growth of the Virgin. It is also the most difficult to express and the key to the deeper meaning in the story. It identifies the dialogue in the Virgin's head that has kept her from moving forward and realizing her dream. In psychological terms, she is overcoming the complex that has been holding her back.


"Until this point in the Virgin's story she believed that she must be passive, servile, small, or nice. She now gives up that belief and becomes rebellious. She recognizes that she does not have to accept other people's authority over her or other's visions for her life."
One of the steps at the beginning of the cycle is to establish the Price of Conformity. It is critical to establish that context because the drama in this beat is driven by the Virgin's realization that, because of what she has become, the price is too great.

But that knowledge isn't sufficient because the Virgin is beset by fears that she might be hurt or no longer loved if she follows her own path.

When the Virgin musters the courage to act, the moment is cathartic: all the old limitations melt away and she finds herself in a world of possibilities--real possibilities, unlike the Secret World. Hudson puts it this way,"Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck frees the activation energy that allows the Virgin to complete her quest to achieve her dream."

Like the Virgin, often it is the web of expectations woven around us that keep us stuck. From the obvious expectations that we meet our daily obligations instead of dropping everything to write, to the more subtle but ultimately more debilitating expectations we have of our writing--that it has to be a bestseller or secure a large advance--we force our words and our efforts to craft those words to carry far more than their fair share.

Those expectations are often the root cause of writer's block: the fear that our writing is "not good enough" is really the fear that our writing isn't suitable for some predetermined purpose. It's no accident that remedies for writers block generally involve writing something that is explicitly useless because you must give up what is keeping you stuck to move forward.

After reading that last sentence, you may be tempted to put on your snark and say, "Well, duh. Give up what keeps you stuck? That's why it's called, 'Writers block.'"

That's an astute observation. (And you thought you were being snide.) The implied frustration--the of-course-I-would-give-up-what's-keeping-me-stuck-if-I-knew-what-it-was incredulity--is an important part of the Virgin's emotional turmoil during this phase. Think about your own bouts with writer's block and how in retrospect you knew what you needed to do but couldn't or wouldn't for a while.

Think, too, about how you felt when you got past the block: the burst of joy, perhaps even borderline euphoria, as the words--good words--began to flow.

Those are the feelings you need to channel as you write your protagonist through the arc of the Virgin's Promise. And those are the feelings you need to treasure and have them ready to call upon for encouragement when you can't move forward until you give up what is keeping you stuck.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /

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