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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Story Archaeology

By Kristy McCaffrey

How do writers find their stories?

The great mythologist Joseph Campbell stated in The Hero With A Thousand Faces: “Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, the myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind.”

Stories live within us, whether we acknowledge them or not. A writer’s job is to excavate this terrain and bring it forth into the world. The act of experiencing a well-told tale, via a novel or a film or a bedtime story, will activate this internal landscape, sparking a recognition deep in the psyche.

A writer uses any number of tools at his or her disposal—intuition, dreams, research, imagination. Shaman and dream archaeologist Robert Moss says that stories are hunting for the right person to tell them. If a story is pressing on you to be told, and you ignore the call, the narrative will find another outlet for expression. This has often been called an artist’s muse, and many a writer has lamented when their source of inspiration has left them.

How to invite the stargazer, the fantasizer, the daydreamer to remain close? In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Jungian psychologist Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says that (for women) the Wild Woman is necessary for all that is needed and known. Wild Woman is a vehicle to our instinctual nature, bringing us close to the wild terrain of our most primitive self.

“It means to establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride regardless of the body’s gifts and limitations, to speak and act in one’s behalf, to be aware, alert, to draw on the innate feminine powers of intuition and sensing, to come into one’s cycles, to find what one belongs to, to rise with dignity, to retain as much consciousness as we can.”

One way to excavate is through story collecting, an excellent device to fill the creative coffers. The more story bones acquired, the more tools that are at hand in creating the ‘whole’ story.

Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down The Bones, offers other ideas: carry a notebook with you at all times, practice timed writing with no editing (first thoughts aren’t controlled by the ego), write consistently to strengthen the storytelling muscle.

But anything we do fully, we do alone. This is especially true with writing. And while writing for others can be motivating, while story hunting may be fueled by the desire for accolades, always remember that the process isn’t simply to trigger an awareness and a change within the reader, but also to grow the vast reservoir of the soul-terrain of the writer herself. Goldberg says, “Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.”

“That’s very nice if they want to publish you, but don’t pay too much attention to it. It will toss you away. Just continue to write.” ~ Katagiri Roshi
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Don't miss Kristy's standalone, full-length novel - Into the Land of Shadows -
Available at Amazon and FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw Ethan and Kate close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.

Connect with Kristy


  1. Kristy,

    I've read Joseph Campbell's, 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces', and he indeed offers many points to ponder that are relevant to life in general and to the writer. Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones' has excellent, readily applicable writing advice. I have yet to read 'Women Who Run with the Wolves', but I just ordered a copy. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Your metaphor of writing as a form of archaeology resonated with me. Writing as a creative and psychological outlet is a process of digging through the layers of a story to find its heart, to discover the treasures that lie within and beneath the surface, and to learn something about ourselves from what we uncover.

    Each time we embark upon this excavating-writing adventure, we invariably dig deeper...and the cycle continues toward our personal writing satisfaction.

    1. Kaye,
      Well said!! 'Women Who Run With The Wolves' is one of my favorite books. I've used it for writing inspiration as well as for my own personal experiences. It definitely belongs on your keeper shelf, to be referred to again and again.

  2. This was certainly a different perspective on the writing muse. I have never really thought of a story looking for the right story teller to express it. I have to give this some thought.
    I do get the archeological aspect of your piece. We dig deep to find some of these stories and manage to uncover some artifacts from our past or the past of a relative that needs a story. I very much like that idea.
    I really liked the Wolf Rules For Life. Good advice.
    As always, Kristy, a most excellent blog. I wish you all the best.

  3. You referenced so mamy of the same 'muses' I love and cherish. Thank you for the refresher. It is so appreciated. Doris

    1. So happy you enjoyed the post, Doris. Here's to a great 2017!!