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Archetypes for Writers: Using the Power of Your Subconscious Paperback – March 1, 2007
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One caveat : For those like myself, Archetypally trained in old school Jungian ways and even older school Shamanic ones, this book would have proven more accessible had I started with Chapter Sixteen, Archetypes, which addresses these modes, and read Chapter Two, Skills & Exercises: Overview, as a Summary after working through the chapters. I found the front-loading of the book with JVB's new, somewhat arch terminology ("nos-anthroing," "isotyping," etc) a bit daunting, and don't believe I'd be alone in this.
So I write this review to encourage readers like myself, for whom such languaging proves cumbersome, to hang in there. And I imagine there are many others for whom JVB's methods will prove just the ticket to enhance not merely their writing, but their Self-expression with a capital "S," as she breathes new life into the universal discipline she re-names "Arkhelogy."
The techniques detailed in the book are written from the perspective of her experience in teaching them in writing classes. (Incidentally, Van Bergen offers an Internet course on the archetypes process that is quite impressive.) Her method of writing allows each reader to take what they need from the book. It is as engaging for seasoned writers as it is for those who are just starting. Teachers will find Van Bergen's teaching experiences quite useful when incorporating these methods into their own curricula.
"Archetypes for Writers" is the overview for a set of exercises that can take years to master. They are a critical ingredient for individual psychological development, as well as fictional character development. Every artist who reads this book will find the entrance to one of the paths that lead toward full and mature creative work.
Free Voices Magazine
Jennifer Van Bergen, a trained Shakespearean actor, a lawyer, political writer and teacher, is no stranger to discipline or art. Well known for her interviews and other reports on Truthout and CounterPunch online, her writing has a vivid muscularity that cuts to the "quick o' the ulcer," turning over the ground of the subject and quickly exposing the honest underbelly.
Archetypes for Writers: Using the Power of Your Subconscious is a call to excellence and a magic breadcrumb trail that leads you there. Early in the narrative, Van Bergen lays bare her revolutionary agenda:
"This approach has little to do with how to "create" characters or plot stories. Rather, it is more about how to find your character and story archetypes, or even how to have them find you. Underlying this approach is the premise that each person carries within them a given set of character and story archetypes."
Not a new-age technique that asks one to "channel" or "visualize" one's characters, Archetypes for Writers contains a deeply organized set of exercises that puts one on a track to unimagined potential.
In the throes of a new script myself, Van Bergen's work came to my attention when I needed it badly. Feeling frustrated with my characters, mired down in the quicksand of my own unwieldy dramatic structure, I was given respite by the opportunity to read the book and by the radical notions contained therein.
Although following an instructional pattern appropriate for a how-to book, Van Bergen's passion for social activism and the connection between personal creativity and mindful existence as a citizen of the world becomes clear.
One reads the book with new eyes. To the writer who approaches the blank page with trepidation and humility, at once elated and dreading the task, it is a godsend. Within the pages of Archetypes for Writers are ancient terms and concepts as old as human thought. What is world shattering is the extraordinary way that Van Bergen frames the information. One feels that one is having a conversation with a great teacher who is also someone with whom one might want to go out and have a beer - and who hasn't had some of his or her most creative moments in such a setting? However, hanging around drinking beer does not get the story made, the play written, the work composed. The discipline of the writer is the discipline of the human being - to delve and pry and wrench the pieces of the puzzle from the depths of our subliminal selves is not for sissies - to live while awake, with thoughtful attention to the details is the fodder that gives great writing its edge. Archetypes for Writers guides us to the knowledge of what we didn't know that we knew. Van Bergen's own lucid and vibrant writing style has created a treasure that one values as much for the beauty of the language as for the groundbreaking information it carries.
Jennifer Van Bergen has demonstrated her own incredible discipline level by writing Archetypes for Writers, a book that synthesizes four decades of her life as an alert, alive, artist, journalist and instructor. This book is much more than a self-help book for writers. It's a self-help book for humanity and the reader receives the potent impression that no one is pulling harder for his or her success than the author, who generously says:
"In order for you to write your own writing, there must be at least one other person who recognizes expressions of your own writing and wants you to do it. That's my role and this book carries it to you."
This extraordinary book is a testament to a remarkable life's work and the discipline and artistry of she who lived it. It is also a gift of insight and skill and those of us who accept it are fortunate, indeed.