Writing with archetypes

Often I’ll finish writing something and be quite content with it only to feel a little while later that the whole thing is completely wrong — not logically wrong but wrong in how it sounds; wrong in what it’s even about. Conversely I have stumbled onto things that I had entirely given up on only to think, “Not bad! What didn’t I like about this?”

But now I see that this extreme change in perception may not reflect anything actually wrong with a piece, but only that I have switched to relating to the world through a different archetype.

There are many different archetypes in me. The poet wants to write beautifully. The essayist wants to be brilliant. The wizard wants to wield mysterious powers. The sage wants to be wise. The hero wants to save us.

Each is suitable in its own way and can inhabit the written word coherently. But each is also somewhat embarrassed of the others. Each finds something distasteful in the way the others speak. Nor do they share the same values, goals, or means to achieving them.

Which means that my own dissatisfaction is only one opinion, not even shared by the rest of me.

This understanding of the psyche could relieve many of my writing woes.

For one, it could mean abandoning my hopeless quest to find one “right” way to write. It would take less effort and prove more useful to develop a dozen different ways.

It could also spare me from my tendency to fruitlessly rework pieces that I was once happy with. Instead I would know to leave them alone, remembering that the archetype that produced it might come around again. And also, that the same archetype, even if it were to die in me, would likely still be alive in others who could appreciate the work regardless of me.

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