Wednesday, November 9, 2011

VP4W 10 Wanders in the Wilderness

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

The ancient religious sanction of excommunication carries far less weight than it once did. In our complex society, with its layers of real or virtual social networks, it's easy to find a new community when we leave (or are thrown out of) an old one. There was a time, however, when being cast out was tantamount to a death sentence.

The inevitable consequence of the Virgin's bid for independence, which leaves the Kingdom in Chaos, is that she suffers the ultimate sanction in the Dependent World and is excommunicated by the agents trying to restore order. This forces the Virgin, whether figuratively or literally, to Wander in the Wilderness.

Kim Hudson* describes the tenth beat of the Virgin's Promise this way:
"[This] stage is a test of the Virgin's conviction and it is her moment of doubt. ... The Virgin has gone against her Dependent World and is unsure of her ability to stand alone. There is no guarantee that she can make it on her own. She is at a fork in the road: go back and appease the Dependent World, which seems the easiest option because it keeps most people happy, or go forward and make a new place for herself."
Like The Ordeal in the Hero's Journey, Wandering in the Wilderness is the Virgin's near death experience. But as a social death she usually has the option to go back to the Dependent World, which makes her choice more difficult. Where the Hero faces life or death, the Virgin chooses between kinds of life. Determining how you will die says a lot about your character. Determining how you will live says more.

Hudson continues:
"Wanders in the Wilderness is the second stage of changing beliefs and in it, life is uncomfortable. The Virgin must emotionally separate from the world she has known and feel the essence of being alone. Her choice to move toward change in the face of hardship is the mark of a strong character and the indication that change will stand the test of time."
Because it is a solitary pursuit, writers often wander in the wilderness: every time you share your work and get a reaction other than the one you expected, you have reason to doubt yourself. During a time when you get nothing but rejections--if you get any response at all--you have to wonder if the crazy one in this relationship might actually be you and not the world.

Like the aphorism that character is what you do when no one is looking, the way you handle those times when you wander in the writing wilderness speaks volumes about who you are and whether you have the stamina and strength of character to stand the test of time that is the author's vocation.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /


  1. Writing in the face of disappointment is like breathing when the smog alert is on. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

  2. Amen.

    I think it helps to know that while you may be alone in your own particular wilderness, you're not the first (nor will you be the last) to wander there.


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