Note: Saundra Goldman is a smart, quietly powerful mentor and leader. She has been leading a conversation for a few years at Creative Mix where she helps women connect the dots of their creative lives and step up with work that speaks to their deepest calling. Saundra has been taking stock of what the heroine’s journey entails. What is the heroine’s journey? How is that different from the hero’s journey? How do we live out a heroine’s journey as an artist or business artist – especially when we must contend with our own health and life constraints? Those are the questions Saundra has been living.
I’m grateful that she has agreed to share this piece here.
What is the Hero’s Journey?
The hero’s journey is as ancient as Odysseus and the Hebrew Bible. If you go to the movies with any regularity, you are familiar with its structure. The reluctant hero travels to distant lands to destroy evil, is tested time and again, fights inward as well as outward demons, and finally victorious, becomes the person he was born to be while bringing peace to the land. He usually gets a girl somewhere in the process.
Think Luke Skywalker with his team of Jedi knights and droids saving the universe from the Empire’s world-destroying battle-station, while rescuing Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. Or Harry Potter, the Chosen One, gathering his fellow Hogwarts students to fight the Death Eaters, then going alone to the forest to do his final battle against Lord Voldemort, thereby saving the Wizard World from impending darkness.
While a few women have made the Hero’s Journey – in movies and in life — it’s difficult for most of us to fit our lives into its parameters. Between the obstacles of patriarchy – including the insidious glass ceiling – and the physical facts of our bodies, it’s a rough ride to glory. Too often when we strive for success in the outer world of work, we sacrifice our inner wisdom and our physical health, leading us farther and farther away from our creativity and true calling.
What is the Heroine’s Journey and how does it differ from the male quest?
Maureen Murdock suggests in her book, The Heroine’s Journey: Women’s Quest for Wholeness (Shambhala 1990), a narrative for women that is specific to the last few generations. Unlike our mothers and grandmothers, we no longer rely on marriage as our only option for leaving home. Like men, we quest. We reject the paths of our foremothers and we go to college and dream big dreams. My own path of art history allowed me to imagine distant places and peoples through works of art and gave me entrée to a more colorful and sophisticated world than the northern California suburbs where I grew up. I lived in exciting places and took interesting jobs in galleries, museums, and at the university.
According to Murdock, however, in climbing the ladders of professional success and recognition, women sacrifice parts of themselves traditionally associated with the feminine – intuition, deep listening, attunement to the rhythms and cycles of nature. While labeling certain aspects of human experience as “feminine” makes me squirm (I will always value feminism over the feminine), my experience parallels Murdock’s findings. By my late thirties I found myself deeply unsatisfied in the prescribed positions of the art world, always working according to someone else’s agenda and values.
I was exhausted and disconnected from any kind of creative work.
I cannot tell you how many women I’ve met whose intelligence and gift for language made them successful but deeply unhappy attorneys, who ended up opting out and reclaiming their voices as writers.
But I want to be clear that the Heroine’s Journey does not advocate for women to return to the home or to traditionally feminine arts. Rather it seeks reconciliation of masculine and feminine attributes, of work and creativity, of business and art.
What does the Heroine’s Journey have to do with your endeavors?
Not unlike the Tracking Wonder Quest for business artists, in the heroine’s journey we seek to reconcile different aspects of ourselves. Some of us are artists seeking to move our work into the world by building brands; others are business people who want to reclaim our creative core. We want to build books and brands out of who we are and not according to someone else’s rules. We quest for wholeness for ourselves and on behalf of the people we serve.
It is no accident that women in their middle years are the fasting growing demographic of Internet entrepreneurs. We seek success on our own terms, with respect for our own creative process, for days that ebb and flow between hard work and stillness, between producing and waiting and listening for the next right action. We trust ourselves because we allow all parts of ourselves to flourish.
A few questions to consider as you quest to become successful in your work :
- What pieces of your life have you lost on former quests for success? What pieces are you ready to reclaim?
- How could you integrate your deep knowledge of the creative process with your head for business?
- How might your days and weeks reflect the ebb and flow between the two?
- What is your grail? What do you desire deeply beyond any thought of external approval or definition of success?
It is my deepest wish, and I believe the wish of Jeffrey and everyone on the Tracking Wonder Team, for you to find that grail, to live a life of wholeness and fulfillment and to create from your deepest place.