A Day In The Life, On Writing

The Hero’s Journey: Death of the Mentor

This month, my writing mentor, David Farland, unexpectedly passed away. It’s been really hard to work through because I think on some level I’m still in denial. It doesn’t feel real, and I’ve struggled putting into words exactly what I’ve been feeling. 

One person in my mentoring group got the closest to describing it when he said that we are all Luke screaming, “No!” after Darth Vadar strikes down Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope.

He hit the nail on the head.

But I think there’s a little more to it than that. I’ve never given much thought to the scene right after this, when the heroes are safely in space and we see Luke grieving at the holo-chess board. I’ve never given much thought to it because as an audience member, you know Luke is going to get past it and find another way to learn about the Force. You just know it. Cause that’s how stories work.

But what happens in real life?

Since Dave’s passing, I’ve felt unmoored, lost, and like my lifeline has been cut. His instruction had such an impact on me that its hard to believe I’ll have success in publishing because I have so much more to learn and he had so much knowledge to give. After Dave got me accepted into my Masters of Publishing program, I stopped attending my mentoring group meetings because I had so much homework.

I wish I had known he would only be here for seven more months. 

So what does that mean for me?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. To be clear, I’m not saying I’ll stop writing. Not a chance. And I have regrets, but I can’t dwell on them. 

The “duh” answer is “keep moving forward.” But that doesn’t fix the feeling of rudderlessness that’s plaguing me right now. 

This got me curious about how the characters in my favorite stories overcame this feeling so they could come into their own and finish their hero’s journey. Of all the characters I thought through, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, etc, Aragorn following Gandalf’s death in The Fellowship of the Ring was the example that hit me the hardest. 

“Legolas,” he says. “Get them up…we must reach the woods of Lothlorien.”

Though Gandalf, the Mentor, the Guide figure, was gone, he knew where they were going and what to do because Gandalf had already set them on the path. I realized every one of those other character’s mentor’s had done the same before they died and that Dave had done it for me, too.

Just as Dumbledore left the defeat of Voldemort to Harry.

As Obi-Wan left the destruction of the Death Star to Luke.

And as Cinna left the downfall of the Capitol to Katniss.

Last year, I started working on my query letter for Demon Fall, even though I’m nowhere near ready to submit to agents. Dave was one of the first people to comment on my request for feedback and helped me work through several drafts. He also had given me feedback on excerpts from the manuscript itself a couple years before in a master class I took from him. And when Dave started the Apex Writers mentoring group, his intention was to help writers get published and hit the apex of their careers.

Dave set me on the path to publication and I need to finish that journey. Do I know what that’s going to look like from here? No, I really don’t. Yes, I have a solid query letter, but I still don’t know if pursuing traditional publishing is the right path for me or for Demon Fall. But I know however I end up doing it, Dave would be proud of me. 

I just wish he could have been here to see it. 

Thanks for all you gave me, Dave.

David Farland,
May 28, 1957 – January 14, 2022

2 thoughts on “The Hero’s Journey: Death of the Mentor”

  1. I came across your blog post about Dave and I really appreciated what you said. I only had limited interactions with Dave, but he was kind, generous, and helpful in those moments. And I learned a lot from his blogs and videos. Thank you for this nice tribute and for sharing your process of grieving.

    Liked by 1 person

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