GMC For the Writer – Conflict

February 25, 2008 at 11:57 am | Posted in goals, Jessica, motivation, writing | 3 Comments

I have conflict in my life. And it’s not the what we-as-writers-strive-for kind of conflict that results in juicy sexual tension between life’s players. It’s the kind of conflict that gets in the way of meeting goals and staying motivated. Life happens, and I find that, despite my best goal setting intentions, I’m easily distracted when it does. And I admit that I at times play a part in creating my own conflict.

What I’m talking about is the clash of my very own active personal archetypes.

Carl Jung coined the term, archetype, theorizing that humans have an inherited, pervasive idea, image, or symbol that forms part of the collective unconsciousness. [OED, p. 611] These repeated patterns of behavior have spurred numerous publications on the topic, and for the purposes of this article, I consulted the book, Sacred Contracts, by Caroline Myss.

In this book, the author introduces the idea that we each possess a unique combination of archetypes, of which four are universal. She places her discussion within a larger, spiritual context, but I have chosen to keep this article at its most base level, focusing on what Ms. Myss declares to be the four constant and universal archetypes: Child, Victim, Prostitute, and Saboteur.

Despite the negative connotations of their names, these archetypes embody neutral patterns of behavior. Together, they represent the issues, fears, and vulnerabilities that affect our actions and reactions. [Myss, p. 111]


The Child needs to be nurtured and cared for. As writers, we often work in solitary conditions, with a drive and dedication that comes from within. Speaking for myself, my inner child causes constant distraction. The child in me is a creative one, but seldom wants to sit down and write. The child wants to watch a movie, or play outside, or take a nap. But the more I’ve given in to this child, the more off track I’ve gotten with my goals. To get to my end goal, I know that I need to work to find a better balance between the creativity of my child archetype and my want to play.


“The primary objective of the Victim archetype is to develop self-esteem and personal power.” [Myss, p.118] We have chosen a line of work that does little to foster either self-esteem or personal power. How many rejections can one person endure? Yet we continue to write and submit, write and submit. Not because we’re masochists, but because we have the burning desire to tell stories. Because the voices in our heads will not stop until we breathe air into them . . . and then new voices replace the old ones and we start the process all over again. With so many contingencies in this business the publishing process can often seem beyond the writer’s control, but there are things we can do as writers to chip away at the powerless feeling. We can keep writing, practicing, and learning in preparation for when one of those submissions goes from rejected to requested.


There is an opportunity cost to writing – when we sit down to write, we forego the opportunity to do something else. Friends, family, work, housework, fun, inner child . . . all vie for spots on our already full dance cards. Writing is one more thing to fit in to our often busy schedules. As a group comprised mainly of women, we still battle a subset of demands not incurred by our male counterparts, and have traditionally been the sex to negotiate away our time, power, and resources. These circumstances are what I think of when I think about the Prostitute archetype: giving away the best of ourselves at bargain basement prices and reserving very little to meet our own needs. When faced with so many demands on our time, it can often be easier to do for others than it is to make the selfish decision. The Prostitute archetype helps us learn that it’s okay to say no to outside influences.


The Saboteur “cause[s] you to resist opportunities . . . out of fear of inviting change into your life.” [Myss, p. 122-123] A friend once said to me that she had a fear of succeeding. It wasn’t until I started writing that I found understanding in what she meant by that statement. As I think about this business I realize that there is an inherent pressure on writers to make each book better and more successful than the last one. I sit down to write and at times ask myself, ‘Do I have it in me to do this?’ The Saboteur can easily sabotage creative opportunities and cause you to abort your dreams. [Myss, p.112] Yes, there is a reality to this business but at the root of the high concept, the marketing plan, and the media packet, is the necessity to tell stories.

There are plenty of people out there who will read your story and give you their honest critique about your work – constructive or harmful. Write the best story that you can and share it with the world; don’t you be the one to stand in the way of your success.

Our art imitates life . . . just as our characters have goals, motivations, and conflicts, so do we as writers and as people. And we all possess different facets to our personalities that cause us to act and react in certain ways. Understanding the “why” of those actions and reactions can help us stay true to ourselves and better handle the curves thrown our way when life happens.

Keep writing!


Sources cited in this post:

Cowden, Tami. What Are the Sixteen Master Archetypes? 2003-2005. [Retrieved May 16, 2005].

Dixon, Debra. Goal, Motivation, & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. Memphis, TN: Gryphon Books for Writers, 1996.

Myss, Caroline. Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2001.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press: 1989.

[This article re-reprinted with permission]



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  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Peter Quinn

  2. Thanks for joining us Peter – Feel free to chime in – we love hearing other’s ideas!

  3. Peter,
    Thank you for stopping by! We appreciate your kind words and support and look forward to seeing you again!

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