A Goddess at our Shoulder

We were getting a little airy-fairy in our last post, speculating that some Unseen Cosmic Force of justice compels you and me onto our ordeals “in the wilderness.”

Let’s stay in the same lane today.

Let’s go back to the Odyssey and see what happens if we take Homer’s epic literally.

One of the aspects of the Odyssey that is often overlooked, probably because it’s so up-front and in-your-face, is that Odysseus throughout his ten-year ordeal is accompanied, aided, and advised by the goddess Athena.

More than once, when our hero washes ashore on some unknown isle, the goddess steps in to transform his appearance, making him look younger and more handsome so that he has a better chance of being welcomed by the inhabitants. Athena counsels Odysseus. She guides him. He pours out his woes to her and she responds with wisdom and kindness.

Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers on the 1988 PBS series, “The Power of Myth”

What does this mean? Is it just a literary device? Did Homer really believe that the real Odysseus really did possess an immortal companion—a deity on the scale of Athena, for whom Athens was named and whose temple, the Parthenon, remains one of the architectural wonders of the world?

More importantly for you and me on our sojourns in the wilderness … do we have any help? From anywhere?

If some Unseen Force of justice compelled Odysseus onto his journey (and compels you and me on ours), could there also be a countervailing Force of Wisdom that can come to our aid as well? 

You won’t be surprised, I’m sure, when I say I believe there is such a force … and that it is working for you and me even in—specifically in—our darkest moments. Here’s Joseph Campbell on what he calls “the hero path.”

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known … we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a God. And where we had thought to slay another we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.

What Joseph Campbell means, as I understand it, is that on some higher or deeper level of consciousness, our ordeal “in the wilderness” has been laid out for us, like a map from a navigation app, and that signposts and constellations are already in place to guide us.

As we are “made to” stray grievously about the coasts of men, we’re also channeled infallibly, whether we believe it or not, into pathways that will serve us ultimately—even if we have no clue in the moment and even if, in reflection, we dismiss the whole process as hogwash.

Our time in the wilderness is our “hero’s journey,” complete with the acts of being cast out, the ordeal of wandering, and the return home. 

I’ll go even further (with no evidence of course) from my own life. I believe that the people we encounter in our wilderness condition were guided to us, or us to them, for some unknown but mutually beneficial purpose. My upcoming memoir, Govt Cheese, is broken into eight books. Each one is named after a mentor—a boss, a teacher, a partner—all of whom appeared, as far as I can tell, at once randomly and also with cosmic purpose. 

They were my “little divinities” and the actions they took toward me, whether they knew it or not (99% not), were the kicks in the ass and the pats on the back I needed—and at precisely the point I needed them. Not Athena maybe, but the next best thing. 

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

48 Comments

  1. Steve R Sipe on November 16, 2022 at 3:58 am

    Thanks for these Wednesday musings. I’ve felt this “beneficial purpose” and “little divinities” myself. I can only reconcile them and the thousands of similar witness statements I’ve heard as divine nudges of grace. “For whom He did foreknow He did predestinate to be conformed into the image of His Son ” And, “I pray that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength” (St. Paul, letters to Romans and Ephesians).

    Thanks again!

    • Terryl Chapman on November 16, 2022 at 5:10 am

      You have made a beautiful association between Mr Pressfield’s letter and Paul’s. ❤️

    • .John Henry McDonald on November 16, 2022 at 6:18 am

      Even the gods or goddesses that leave me broken on the rocks. The worst days of my life have become the best things that ever happened to me, several times over.

      • Anonymous on November 24, 2022 at 10:07 am

        I love the way you think and your wisdom and I’m encouraged to keep trying.

  2. Stephanie Raffelock on November 16, 2022 at 4:06 am

    In Annie Finch’s book, The Poet’s Craft, she puts forth the exercise to call in your muse. The muses were born of Mnemosyne and Zeus, or as I like to say they were born of memory and thunder. The muse that speaks to my heart is Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry. I’ve written a poem beseeching her; I’ve whispered her name in early morning journaling; and I like to think that she is with me, some great and loving force that compels me to weave stories and poems in this blessing of a life, that is a writer’s life. Without some study of the humanities, myth, poetry, philosophy, religion . . . we can’t really write about the human condition. It’s always good to have a goddess at your shoulder, and you never know in what form they’ll show up. With love and appreciation..

  3. Hello Gtx on November 16, 2022 at 4:23 am

    helloGTX is more than a CRM and offers explosive GROWTH. Its integrated tools help you to manage customers, leads, itineraries, invoicing, suppliers, websites, landing pages, promotional mailers, campaigns and more such things in few clicks.

  4. Hello Gtx on November 16, 2022 at 4:28 am

    The integration of API/XML of GDS such as Amadeus, Travel Website, and sabre, our focus lies much on upgrading and enhancing the overall user experience by providing them all the insights, information, and updated details as per the needs and expectations of the user. We deliver best of technology products for hotels, flight booking engine, car rentals, relocation, excursion, and customized packages. We are committed and dedicated towards enhancing the efficiency and efficacy of B2B Travel Booking System, B2C, and B2B2B corporates globally.

    • Avi Goren-Bar on November 16, 2022 at 12:19 pm

      This is Dr Avi Goren- Bar from Jungian Coaching School .com dearly appreciate your enlightening of the linkage between Odysseus and Athena. Athena represents wisdom she was born out of Zeus head, her pat is the Owl the night wise bird, intuition in darkness -bewilderness (!). On his hero quest Odysseus is assisted by his Anima, a hero (strong firm Ego) by the compensatory function balances his ambitions and exploring drives through his Femininity projected on the goddess Athena. Dear S. How is your Anima assisting you in ur life quest?

  5. Trina Morgan on November 16, 2022 at 4:35 am

    It’s comforting to imagine that there is unseen, even unacknowledged, guidance. Nihilism is less bleak when there’s even a ghost of a chance that something, an energy, a force, could be nudging me along a particular path, however blindly I seem to be stumbling through; the path that only this particular human can travel.

  6. Joe Tye on November 16, 2022 at 4:39 am

    Really looking forward to the new book Steve. And hopefully a return visit to the Reel Inn 🙂

  7. Jackie on November 16, 2022 at 4:55 am

    As always Steve, much to think about and right on the mark, thank you. Looking forward to the book(s).

  8. Mary Hart on November 16, 2022 at 5:31 am

    Thank you, Steven, for this divinely timed reminder sent just for me…seemingly. 🙂 I also believe that I/we are not here by chance, and we are sometimes as stubborn in our blindness to that fact as the Israelites complaining in a 40 year wilderness of their own making. Even so, they were fed and protected from annihilation. I also believe some of them saw beauty and felt love, maybe for the first time in their lives, in that desert experience. Odysseus’ journey of the soul was similar. (At times, Odysseus’ character reminds me of many of the Hebrew stories…) We need these stories to remind us that we do not exist randomly in a soulless cosmic machine.
    Today, you were the divine messenger speaking courage and hope into my heart. Thank you.

  9. Tolis on November 16, 2022 at 6:01 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve! Yesterday I had the experience of really feeling the awe and the gratitude for some person who watches my back “until they die” (and they really do that my whole life), and through my quite extreme emotional condition these weeks now that my whole life changes because of new work, new land, new home etc. etc., I can ‘feel their energy’ protecting me *If* I consciously “call it forth”. Isn’t that a sign of the first creation of the divine in our conscience and heart? The external power that we rest upon, when no other power is left in our confined body’s energy and there is no endurance any more. And it can be powerful.

    My great wishes to all!!

    • david jay mcgee on November 16, 2022 at 6:57 am

      Tolis, muchas gracias, mi amigo.

      • Tolis on November 19, 2022 at 11:23 am

        Thank you so much, David! We all are as strong and wise as the most wise of the world, we just need to keep on that path or we will lose the best chance in our small life…

  10. BarbaraNH on November 16, 2022 at 6:04 am

    Thanks, Steve. As always, perfect timing. Looking forward to the new book!

  11. Brian Patrick on November 16, 2022 at 6:04 am

    Always grateful for your Writing Wednesday posts, sir.

  12. Bing on November 16, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Great post, this is an easy lane to stay in. I personally have had a crazy up and down life. I am now an old man. When I look into the rear view mirror of my life, I can easily see that I have been divinely guided by something, that’s for dam sure. Today I am a very grateful and blessed man. Love to you all !

  13. david jay mcgee on November 16, 2022 at 6:55 am

    My faith (not a religious thing) is based on the factual and recurring evidence that a golden brick road is laid before me. All I have to do or be is of right mind and heart and courageous. That means tip well, smile at everyone, don’t bite back, and just keep walking towards your last sunset with complete intention, not knowing when it will come.

    Onward, write, live well.

    • Joe on November 16, 2022 at 7:44 am

      Good thoughts here.

    • Jackie on November 16, 2022 at 9:59 am

      Well said David.

  14. Brad Graft on November 16, 2022 at 6:58 am

    Regarding “Govt Cheese.” What a classy way to write a memoir/autobiography… By capturing snippets of time and honoring critical friends/co-workers/bosses, who provided “comic purpose” in a good man’s life, while he struggled in his personal wilderness.. This book will be a great read.

    • Joe on November 16, 2022 at 7:43 am

      Agreed, Bull.

  15. Lin Keeling on November 16, 2022 at 9:09 am

    “I believe that the people we encounter in our wilderness condition were guided to us, or us to them, for some unknown but mutually beneficial purpose.” I think I can safely speak for most who come here on Wednesdays, Steve. You are this for us. Thank you for sharing your life, insights and struggles with us each week.

  16. Sam Luna on November 16, 2022 at 9:22 am

    The Writing Wednesday clan has been a little divinity in my creative life. Can’t wait to read Govt Cheese!

  17. Kate Stanton on November 16, 2022 at 10:53 am

    I love “airy-fairy” posts as much as I love the swift kick in the ass I get on Wednesdays. I can attest to this:

    “As we are “made to” stray grievously about the coasts of men, we’re also channeled infallibly, whether we believe it or not, into pathways that will serve us ultimately—even if we have no clue in the moment and even if, in reflection, we dismiss the whole process as hogwash.”

    In reflection of my recent health emergency, the whole process was divine intervention. I was working so hard to resist what’s happening and I’ve recently learned we must give up control or we get stuck. Let it Flow…Let it Be…Let it Go (all epic songs) 🙂

    • Lin Keeling on November 16, 2022 at 11:27 am

      So sorry to hear that you’ve been ill, Kate. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

      • Kate Stanton on November 17, 2022 at 6:41 am

        Thank you, Lin!! I am thankfully on the other side of it now. I’m going to write about my experience someday. Happy Writing Wednesday — I hope your week is full of creativity.

  18. Maureen Anderson on November 16, 2022 at 11:43 am

    I’m sitting at my perch in this dingy 30-year-old RV this morning, thankful the now-bare trees give me a view of the sky and a world beyond the campground. “Why do I look forward to Writing Wednesdays as much as I do?” I wonder. “Besides the reassurance it’s okay to look at the world the way Steve does?”

    I thought about the Instagram post he just shared…

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Ck_xN70APdr/

    …and how happy he looks. “That’s it! He’s happy!” I mean, what do I know? But he looks so content in that video. Like he’s grown into the person he must have known he could be. With everything else he has going, somehow he takes time to give us a weekly class on how to live — which always feels like permission to trust what we already know. Because he did, and look what happened!

    We could each probably write our own books on how many goddesses seem to be looking out for us, but I have an eerie example. I once consulted a psychic for career advice, believe it or not, who “knew” I had another child. Nope, I promised. Just the one. A daughter. That’s when he “sensed” the baby I’d miscarried (so early I never even thought of it AS a baby). “It’s a female,” he said. “She’s been hanging around. She’s chosen to stay around and kind of act like a guardian angel, I believe, over the [then] 23-year-old.”

    “I lost you so quickly,” I finally wrote that daughter in a letter, “I never thought of you as real, but this changed all that. I gave you a name, I started thinking of myself as the mother of two, and every time I considered worrying about my earthbound daughter I stopped. It’s been four years since the mysterious reveal — but it’s only now, while writing to you, I feel a connection. Is that why I started Letters to Strangers? To bring you closer?”

    One thing all the religions of the world seem to agree on, a friend once told me, is that dreams are one of the channels through which the gods traditionally speak to mortals.

    And every Wednesday we get a reminder to pay attention!

    • Bing on November 16, 2022 at 5:41 pm

      Maureen, your post was very touching, thank you for your deep share!

      • Maureen Anderson on November 16, 2022 at 6:10 pm

        Bing, your reply was very reassuring — and instantly cured me of my commenter’s remorse. 🙂

        • Kate Stanton on November 17, 2022 at 6:39 am

          CHILLS, Maureen. I love your vulnerability and strength in this post. Not to mention the writing skills it takes to express something so difficult. Wednesdays are inspiring here for many reasons <3

          • Lin Keeling on November 17, 2022 at 8:14 am

            Kate’s right, Maureen. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.



          • Maureen Anderson on November 17, 2022 at 10:05 am

            Kate and Lin and the rest of the gang, if I ever get where I’m planning to go I’m sharing the news here first — before even my mom! I say “if” and not “when” because if it doesn’t happen I’ll still have had one heck of a ride, thanks in part to this community.

            I hope it isn’t to corny to sign off by saying I love you all. Because I do!



          • Maureen Anderson on November 17, 2022 at 10:07 am

            TOO corny! Ugh!



  19. Peter Brockwell on November 16, 2022 at 11:48 am

    I’m totally loving these latest posts of Steve’s. I feel that Steve is our Athena in many ways. Loving, gentle, wise and firm in equal measure.

    I’ve not stopped reading and digesting Steve’s posts, but haven’t found the energy or time (sounds pathetic, I know) to comment, but I desperately wanted to last week (and failed to), but here I am now.

    Very much looking forward to Govt Fromage!
    Peter

    Peter

  20. Peter Brockwell on November 16, 2022 at 11:50 am

    Forgot to say: I have found my Athena, and had coffee, a walk (past the elephants and ostriches at Woburn Safari Park) and a chat with her today. And I need to pay more attention to her!

    Great post, Steve.
    P

  21. Anonymous on November 16, 2022 at 11:55 am

    The two most important qualities that have aided me in the “wilderness times” were Confidence and Conscious. Teachers and mentors who imbued me with a sense of special worth to elevate my goals in life. “Yes, you can do it.” Others like an uncle who related, “Remember, you have to shave.” Say what? You need to look at yourself in the mirror! A conscious is like a goddess or guardian angel looking out for you. During those times when battered and bruised on the gridiron, or lost in the land of the lotus- eaters awash in drug induced oblivion, or astray in Circe’s debauchery, it helps to have a Clarence or Jiminy Cricket to help pull your chestnuts out of the fire.

    • Frank Gugino on November 16, 2022 at 11:58 am

      The Jiminy Cicket is me.

  22. Adam Schwartz on November 16, 2022 at 6:24 pm

    I have a trick that I use to keep Resistance from destroying me. During my writing sessions, I write on my scratch paper, “Times Resistance stopped me from working” and underline it. During the session, when I become aware that I’ve stopped work to daydream or worry, I put a mark under the line. At the end of the session I add up the marks. This helps me become aware of how my mind pulls me away from doing the work. It’s been a lifesaver.

  23. Jan Bowler on November 16, 2022 at 8:23 pm

    Steve, thank you for the always right on time information and inspiration. You are a gift to writers of all stripes. Bless you!

  24. Anonymous on November 16, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    I just listened this morning to a a teaching by Puma Fredy, a Peruvian shaman, who is becoming a world teacher. He taught that we are all on the Path, whether we know it or not, even when we don’t believe there is a Path. It is a Path of service – we are here to help others – to always give a hand up. We are guided by The Ancestors, not only our biological ancestors, but powerful Spiritual Ancestors who were here before us. We are never alone even though we may think we are. When we finally come to the end of the Path, we will devote ourselves to helping those who are struggling in the earlier stages of the journey. That appears to be where you are, Steve, at the end stage where you advise and help the rest of us. Thank you for your persistence and courage and showing us the way.

  25. Chad Stamm on November 17, 2022 at 7:52 am

    If everything happens for a reason, which seems to be what you’ve been saying these last few weeks, does that reason come from some big, cosmic voice in the sky, or could it simply be that we, humans, are providing the meaning in retrospect, our own meaning that comes from within because chance and luck are simply too hard to swallow, too void of meaning, and that if there’s one thing humans need it’s belonging that’s rooted in meaning?

    • Lin Keeling on November 17, 2022 at 8:24 am

      It is true, Chad, that one of the characteristics of being human is that we look for meaning in things, giving them significance by naming them, telling stories about them, but what Steve’s talking about here–and I don’t presume to speak for him, but am sharing my take on what he shares with us–is what we who work as creatives experience when we let go and let something beyond us, the Unaverse, a Muse, whatever we choose to call it, works through us. I have experienced this many times in my work. A piece I’m struggling with resolves itself with a solution I could never consciously come up with. Something I design that seems to come out of the blue, I have no idea how these come to me. They come from outside of me. There are a number of pieces I have created that, when looking at them after they are finished, I have no idea how I created the designs. Their existence is literally beyond me and I am humbled and awed by their existence.
      So, yes, in retrospect, we can see what happens to us and assign a reason to it, give it meaning, but chance and luck and reason cannot explain everything.

  26. Vivian on November 18, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Wow! I totally agree Steve. This has been so true for me in my life. At 60 years young, I look back at my wildrness times and the people who seemed to appear in my life randomly. What I see at this vantage, is tons of purpose, some ass kicking, encouragement, wisdom, and well-needed guidance. You summed it up very well. You said what I have tried to find the words for awhile. Thank you

  27. Jason Wiitman, MPS on November 19, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    As usual, you hit another one out of the park! I have been thinking along these lines for most of my adult life. I actually have labeled these people who magically appear when they are most needed, “moseses” This is how I described them in my new book, “Designing Your Great Life ~ Time-Tested Prescriptions for a Life Worth Living”

    “Sure, it is possible to get the fundamentals from books and Internet videos and do fairly well on one’s own without further assistance. The problem is that without the mentorship and guidance of those who have already walked the walk, the journey towards mastery will be tedious, longer, and probably involve wasted effort reinventing wheels. Information digested this way can introduce a subject and can even supply more detailed “how to” instruction but they will never be able to convey the tacit knowing or replace the vast experience of their writers and creators.

    “I read lots of Tony Robbins’ writings but in no way did any of that come near to meeting the quality of the experience of working with him and getting his guidance on many occasions, as I walked through my fears, while, unscathed, I walked barefoot over 30 feet of flesh-burning wood coals! Now that is an extreme example of what I call the Moses Principle.

    “Moses, of biblical fame who guided the Jewish nation through the desert but was not to enter the gates of their destination with them. I believe that, in our lifetime we meet a series of moseses (small m) who walk us through a portion of our lives to the next phase where we either strike out on our own or find another mentor moses for the next part of the journey. I have had many such guides and have been in that role numerous times myself. For those of you in 12 Step recovery programs, your Sponsor is a good example.”

  28. ghazestor on November 23, 2022 at 4:36 am

    I have found my Athena, and had coffee, a walk (past the elephants and ostriches at Woburn Safari Park) and a chat with her today. And I need to pay more attention to her!

  29. Gwen on November 25, 2022 at 6:59 am

    Sometimes we invite those goddesses into our lives secretly believing they will tell us exactly what we want to hear and direct us to our ultimate (success) destination. I invited a goddess of wisdom (paid for the privilege actually) to edit my manuscript – my third and most loved baby. I worked on another novel and was 3/4 complete – 4 months later when I received the edit of my novel. I read and reread the overview seemingly designed to ease me into the pit and bind me tight keeping me immobile as the pendulum swung lower and lower ripping at my literary flesh. I was stunned. I backed away from my desktop, drank too much and raised the art of name-calling to new heights. For a month I chose NOT to write. I was finished. There were legitimate excuses for my pain – the editor was young; unfamiliar with college life in the Age of Aquarius. The editor was white; ignorant of the middle class black experience of the 70’s (why is this impoverished girl so angry?). The editor was (maybe) too innocent and naive when it came to a woman’s honest approach and acceptance of her sexuality. – Such was my rationale for the editor’s rapier responses to my novel. For month I was free to drink, swear and cast blame. One morning I awoke – with the desire to do an HONEST examination of my novel. I did not stop at the silly, nonsensical questions my editor had – (whose story is she reading? – NOT MINE!) I focused on the major edits – plot structure – release of necessary information at critical points, above all I needed to establish my protagonists goals/fears/obstacles UP FRONT. I made those changes and, while I don’t take back ALL of the mean and nasty things I thought about my editor – I came to appreciate what she had right. I came across a quote – (author unknown) that has helped (certainly for future reference) ease some of the sting of negative edits. CRITIQUES SHOULD SPUR GROWTH and IMPROVEMENT : NEITHER IS PAINLESS.

Leave a Comment