Of all the archetypes I’ve explored over the last few weeks, Zeus is the one with the largest arsenal. Little wonder he’s king of the gods: He has thunderbolts to throw like spears, a magic shield for protection, a sickle made of the hardest substance in the universe, and an eagle as his assistant. It turns out, these are some of the most useful tools for writers, too.
The Thunderbolt. This is Zeus’s hallmark. Greek mythology is full of stories about him lobbing thunderbolts at anyone who crossed him. And why not? They strike a victim dead in an instant and they’re thrown from a safe distance. Get a thunderbolt or two, and you’re practically invincible.
The symbolism of thunder and lightning crop up a lot as metaphors for writing: Samuel Clemens’s famous quote about the difference between the “right word” and the “almost-right word” is a case in point. Natalie Goldberg even used the metaphor as the title of a book: Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft. But, rather than symbols of craft and creativity, I like to think of Zeus’s thunderbolts as representations of assertive, decisive action. Which is exactly why I think they’re useful to writers.
Honestly, when was the last time you saw a writer make a sure, swift, confident decision about anything? We’re the biggest group of lollygaggers around. You don’t see Zeus sitting around worrying about whether he should kill off the Titans. Yet, most writers can’t pick up a pencil without pondering, procastinating, and weighing our options. The symbolism of Zeus’s thunderbolts is the perfect antidote to our dawdling and delay tactics.
The Eagle. Many statues of Zeus show him with a giant golden eagle next to him. This is his assistant, the Aetis Dios. His job: Get Zeus what he wants.
So, what is it you want? More writing time? Better story ideas? A writing coach? More money? Whatever it is, Zeus’s eagle symbolizes going out and getting it. Eagles have incredible eyesight: they can spot fish in the water from hundreds of feet above, and they can see both ahead and to the side at the same time. Eagles are fast: Their bodies and heads are designed for swift flight, and some can achieve speeds of 35 m.p.h. Eagles have powerful talons for grasping their prey. Eagles can fly.
Seeing what you need. Taking swift action to get it. Holding onto it tenaciously. This is what the Aetis Dios is all about. Get yourself an eagle—a metaphorical one, of course—and go out and soar.
The Aegis. The aegis is a shield or cloak associated both with Zeus and with his favorite daughter, Athena. It’s a good reminder that Zeus’s power comes not only from strength and might, but from the fact that he is impervious to harm.
It’s hard to think of an endeavor than can make you feel more vulnerable than writing. Ask anyone who’s spent years putting their deepest feelings on paper only to have their work rejected. Most people might experience getting fired once or twice in a lifetime, but writers get rejections all the time.
We need the aegis. We need sound techniques for dealing with criticism and disappointment. We need inner armor. It’s as essential to building a writing career as anything else. Because, without it, our writing lives will be miserable—and we are very likely to end up in the ranks of writers who never made it because they couldn’t handle the hurt.
The thunderbolt, the eagle, the shield. Great symbols for writers. But the greatest of Zeus’s weapons, in my opinion, the adamantine sickle. And that is what I’ll be covering tomorrow.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...