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Taking Your Inner Artist on the Hero’s Journey: Part 2

We return to our friend and metaphorical representation, the hobbit. As you may recall last time, he’s guiding his inner artist along to a place of freedom. For the purposes of our narrative, I’m going to combine both characters into one - the hobbit is the inner artist. You understand.

But that doesn’t mean there’s only one character here - for as he is walking, a familiar shadow starts to crop up more frequently, the further he gets from home. He’s in wider, more open spaces with more sunlight and less shade and the shadow is imminently more obvious. He’s being followed.

He doesn’t need to investigate. He knows who this is. He decides to ignore the shadow for as long as possible; he knows that if he can just stay where it’s warm and comfortable, even while he’s walking, he doesn’t have to deal with how this shadow makes him feel, makes him want to stop walking and go home.

It’s a Wednesday morning. He slept fine the night before. Nothing clued him in to the fact that on this particular Wednesday morning, he would come across one of his worst fears yet.

It was a stream. A quick moving river. A fairly deep, icy cold river. True, there was a raft, he didn’t necessarily know that he would fall in. But to board this raft, it would have to start moving downstream first. And it was indeed in a downstream direction. A pretty steep downstream direction. This hobbit wasn’t a fan of getting cold, wet or riding a raft down a quickly flowing river. He’d tried this before, back in his younger days, and it did not go well. He had promised himself he’d never try that again.

Yet here he was. He was going to have to make a new promise.

The sun had gone in while he’d been standing there, pondering his next move. The sky had grown overcast and he hadn’t noticed that his shadow had finally come up to him.

Without looking over his shoulder, he said “Hello, Gerald.”

“Hello, Hobbit”, the sniveling voice replied. The hobbit hated this guy, but he couldn’t seem to shake him. He’d been nearby since his youth, ever ready to discourage and generally slow him down. The hobbit had learned awhile back that Gerald often lied, would say whatever he needed to to make the hobbit stop what he was doing.

The hobbit tried to ignore him, but somehow Gerald’s presence made the river in front of him seem even more dark and foreboding. Moments later, a second ever-present companion had joined them. It was Harold, the honeybee. Harold was a far less foreboding presence but a somehow more annoying one. Never one to stay in the shadows, Harold would boldly buzz around the hobbit’s head every chance it got. The two seemed to accompany each other, but in fact they were not true friends. They both made the hobbit’s life a bit uncomfortable, but Harold at least seemed to have the hobbit’s best interests at heart. Seemed. The hobbit tried not to listen to what either of them had to say.

Why hadn’t it occurred to the hobbit that he might have to ride a river? He knew he was venturing out into the countryside, where rivers live. The hobbit sighed deeply. Maybe this wasn’t worth it.

As if reading his thoughts, Harold buzzed, ‘You can’t turn back now. You made a promise to yourself. You have wanted this for a long time. You’ll never be able to face yourself the same way if you go back home - ‘ The hobbit cut him off with a swat. Gerald cut in, taking advantage of Harold’s silence. ‘You know you can’t ride that river. It is way too steep, way too dangerous. Remember how it felt when you fell in last time? When you almost drowned?’

The hobbit didn’t quite remember almost drowning. He knew Gerald had a flair for drama. Still, it was working. He already did not want to take this next step, and the most encouraging friend he had around at the moment was really just an annoying one. What did the bee know about such things? He could fly.

But Harold did make a good point. If he stopped now, he’d have a much harder time getting going again. And what would become of him if he just went back to his old life? Crawled back into his too small hobbit hole and tried to forget how he felt, out here in the open spaces? As small as it had felt, it would feel even smaller later, knowing what could have been.

The hobbit came to a decision. “Harold”, he said, staring at the river. Harold buzzed quite close to his ears, which also helped deafen him to Gerald’s sniveling. “I’m going to need you to sting me.”

Harold was delighted. Stinging was his jam. “Where do you need to be stung, o hobbit friend?” The hobbit sighed. ‘Right in the kaboose.’

Without hesitation, the honeybee obliged, causing the hobbit to jump high in the air and land on the raft. Before he knew it, he was on his way. And the Sun had some out again. Some of the water splashed up and soothed the sting site. Best of all, Gerald had been left behind for the moment, even though the hobbit knew that he could swim.

Of course, now that he was on the raft, it was moving pretty fast. The wind rushing through his hair, the spray that met his skin, it was such a great change from living underground. And yet - it was all moving pretty fast. The hobbit reached for an oar, wanting to slow his progress. Harold instantly objected. ‘You need the speed, Hobbit! Don’t slow down!’

In that moment, the hobbit heard faint splashing behind them and knew that Gerald was catching up. So he reluctantly put the oar down and instead sat squarely in the middle of the raft, ready to ride out the rest of the river.

A Note from the Author:

This week, I’ve included a few new characters. Gerald is the name I’ve personally given to my inner critic - he’s miserable and ever present. You know the type. He’s a form of fear, I suppose. There’s also Harold the honeybee, representing anxiety. A week ago, I’d have lumped them into the same character, but I’m toying with an idea I got from The Artist’s Way. The idea is that sometimes anxiety can be helpful. As my friend and fellow hobbit, Riordan*, says, ‘It depends on the dosage.’ Which is true. Maybe Harold should be able to transform into a wasp. My other friend Royce** points out that anxiety doesn’t always push you in the correct direction, while Riordan also points out that bee stings can be very acute pain, while anxiety can have a really generalized effect.

*Riordan may be an elf. The jury is still out on that one.

** Another possible elf. We’ll see.

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