It might or might not surprise you, but I’m a big fan of self-improvement books. These types of books cover anything from personal finance to relationships, attitude, or recovery from [bad situation X]. It seemed a natural fit, then, when I found a book on my Facebook feed titled The Hero’s Journal, which combines quest-based storytelling, journaling, and self-improvement. I just got the journal yesterday, so this is a product preview, not review. However, based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m looking forward to it.
I Grew Up With This
If my readers have anyone to thank (or blame) for the relentless personal advice and Pollyanna-ish positive attitude in this blog, it would be my maternal grandmother, Katherine (Kliefoth) Goodney. A German immigrant who came over to the United States with her family between the World Wars, she was a big believer in what used to be call the “American Dream:” if you work hard, follow the rules, build a better mousetrap, and have the right attitude, you can succeed and make your fortune.
While I don’t know if she did this with my sister or my cousins, Grandma’s way of indoctrinating me into optimistic, American-style thinking was to a) serve up little bits of wisdom in every conversation and b) get me to read self-improvement books. If these books have one lesson in common, it is simply this: you have the ability within yourself to address the problems and obstacles in your life.
The Approach of The Hero’s Journal
So where does The Hero’s Journal fit into this tradition of can-do self-improvement books?
Rather than taking a straightforward, here’s-how-you-reach-your-goal approach, The Hero’s Journal asks the reader/user to treat his/her personal goal as a quest akin to the Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars saga, where you’re not just doing something mundane, but participating in a story.
Beginning with the “Call to Adventure,” the journal takes the reader through the various conventional stages of a quest as known to literature students or readers of Joseph Campbell. Therefore, the reader will think through issues such as “Refusal of the Call,” where you consider the fears that might be holding you back from pursuing your goal/quest to identifying your friends/enemies to laying out a “map” toward your eventual destination.
Along the way, daily entry pages include sections to write down things you are grateful for; a list of allies; a daily reminder space for you to write down your quest (goal); your personal action items for the day (so you have individual tasks and the “big picture” always in mind; “today’s threats” that prevent you from achieving your goal; an adventure- or quest-related inspirational quotation; and a space for notes for that day. The different “chapters” take you through Initiation, The Road of Trials, Approaching the Cave, The Ordeal, and Resurrection & Reward. At the end of each of these “chapters,” you are asked questions such as, “If this stage of your journey was a chapter in a book, what would the title be?” “What have been the most beneficial activities or habits that have helped you make progress on your goal?” and “What is the Key Result you’d like to accomplish on the next leg of your journey?”
What Does This Have to Do With Tech Writing?
Okay, yes, this might seem a bit silly to some of you, but think about it: how many of you get caught up in stories–whether they’re epic fantasies, soap operas, or murder mysteries? They’re often a lot more exciting than whatever you’re working on in the office. However, stories are, as another book I’m reading suggests, how human beings are wired to face the world. As fantasy writer Neil Gaiman notes, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Odds are, you have a goal for yourself: something difficult you’d like to accomplish in your life that can’t be done in a day or a week, but a change that you know will take constant, relentless effort. Would you rather face that goal as a long, hard slog through paperwork and hard thinking? Or, instead, would you like to face your life as a heroic quest with victory and a just reward awaiting you at the end of the story? The Hero’s Journal is a tool to help you become the hero of your own life story. That sounds a lot better than a lecture from Grandma, right?