It’s all story

Posted: May 20, 2009 in prison, general, prisoner writing, story, The Hero's Journey Workshop

Tonight I am prepping to go up to the prison on Wednesday. I’ll be presenting two archetypes found in a hero’s journey, the Threshold Guardian and the Shapeshifter. I’m chuckling about how both describe so well our encounter with the custody officer last time, the one who was so particular about our paperwork. As a guard, he is clearly a Threshold Guardian, a character who stands between the ordinary world and the special world of the hero’s journey, trying to convince the hero to turn back, give up, lose faith in his mission. As a Shapeshifter, he morphed from a guard who is typically welcoming and easy to work with to one who is controlling and penalizing, thus keeping us on our toes, adding tension to our story of being volunteers in the prison. It helps to be able to see the experience this way—as elements of a story. Wednesday night, when we return, we’ll know to be prepared for him to shift again. No experience is the same up there. No rule or procedure firm (as much as they’d like you to believe it is). It’s intriguing to consider that my own personality tends to be one that works to please, not make mistakes, follow the rules and receive praise for not being a trouble maker, so of course I was shook up by the guard’s dissatisfaction with our paperwork. And when our argument that “this is how we’ve always done it” failed (i.e.—reasoning with him failed) I felt as if I had personally failed. But it’s all a game. A constantly changing game. And, strangely, I think it’s good for me. Like the heroes our guys are trying to write about, like heroes who have walked this journey through the centuries, I have to learn to expect the unexpected, to be challenged just when I’m getting comfortable, to be knocked back when the road gets too easy and familiar. That’s tension. And tension is story.

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