Monday, October 27, 2008

The Alchemist and Finding your Personal Legend

So most of you know that my day job is as a teacher. That's why I've not been posting much lately...report cards come out soon, and I've been up to my eyeballs in grading essays.

The essays this term were on a novel by Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. It is a brilliant little book, well told, and short enough to both have a punch-to-the-gut kind of importance without taking away all reader imagination. So I had the kids read this book on their own and then write a 5 page essay on how the main character is a hero and how the book inspires them to be the hero of their own lives (we were doing a bunch of that Joseph Campbell stuff at the time).

And while I've read this book at least 3 times, I don't think I ever really came up with how applicable it really is to one's own life. It truly is a universal book. But more than that, I think it is the perfect book for a writer on the rocks.

The thing is, I've been a bit down about revisions. I dislike revisions, but I think I've grown enough as a writer recently to realize the extent to which I must revise. I've been writing novels for, Lord, almost 7 years now (wow, really?!) without publication, and getting to the point where I was mature enough as a person (I started when I was 20) and mature enough as a writer (with stacks of pages hidden under the bed) has been a process in and of itself. And while I might be improving, I'm also aware of the fact that my eyes are getting full of shiny green jades.

But The Alchemist is a good book to restore the (writer's) soul. See, it's all about following your dreams, even when the going gets tough. Here's the super-quick rundown:

Everyone has a Personal Legend. This is your dream. Whatever the purpose of your life is, that is your Personal Legend. For me, it's my published book on the shelf. Now, once you realize your Personal Legend, you will have Beginner's Luck. The Soul of the World (fate, God, the universe-- the thing that cares about insignificant you) will help you to achieve your dream, and because dreams are difficult to accomplish, you have Beginner's Luck. Because, “When you want something, all the world conspires in helping you to achieve it.” But your luck will run out, and you'll have to work for your dream, your Personal Legend. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Both will make you want to stop seeking your Personal Legend.

In the end, the journey is as important as the dream. And the dream will come true to those who do not give up on it. After all:
At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fates. That’s the world’s greatest lie. Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
And this is what it means to be a writer. In the beginning, you believe in the dream of publication, you believe that doing it makes it so. And there is Beginner's Luck--those good, inspiring comments early in our writing life that gives us faith in ourselves and our dream. And things happen to make you want to give up--bad rejections, form rejections, rejection in general. Even good things--like family and careers--make you want to give up on writing. But, knowing and believing in my own Personal Legend--and not giving up on it--is all that I can do. And hopefully, that world out there is conspiring to make my Personal Legend come true.
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