How to solve your life #039

A few years ago when my life was going through the wringer I started seeing a fabulous shrink in Singapore. My brain was full of noise. It was breaking down when I needed it most.

I had to find clarity so I could take care of the problems coming at me from every direction. My psychologist and I are both interested in writing and he suggested a story based solution. I do bang on about this a lot to my friends because it changed my life. 

It is a model for thinking based on a book from the 90s – “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover”. It was mostly written as a guy thing, a solution to problems such as “toxic masculinity” but I think the ideas are universal. 

The basic idea is to split your thinking into 4 distinct modes. The screenwriter in me looks at these “modes” as four different characters to inhabit. Each of these characters has a specific job to do. 

The King

This is the guy who steps back, surveys everything that is going on in the kingdom and comes up with a plan to fix it. He doesn’t actually get hands on with the problem – he delegates.

The Warrior

When there is solid stuff to be done, the King gives this guy the job. The Warrior takes on the task without thinking too much about it. He attacks relentlessly until the task is completed.

The Magician

Sometimes he is referred to as a “trickster”. When the problem can’t be solved with a direct line of attack, The Magician will try to find a clever way around it.

The Lover

Sometimes the solution is to step outside and remember why we are alive. Look for solutions in the beauty around us, in love and relationships, in our values and creative core. When the pressure is on this can be a tough character to access. Sometimes the King has to send in the other characters to help the damaged Lover find his feet.

Rather than give examples from the shitshow that was my life a few years ago, here’s an idea on how it might help your songwriting. 

Stuck on finding a hook for a chorus? The King might say “attack!” – but The Warrior may not succeed after hammering away at it. The Magician might say “the problem is not the chorus, it is everything around the chorus”. Or perhaps “there is a deeper meaning to these verses you have written and it is hiding in your subconscious.” In this case, we go back to “King” mode and he hands the job over to the Lover. The Lover will go la de da, go for a walk on the beach, cook something exotic for a friend, look at the shapes of the flowers in the garden. When we return to the song he knows exactly what to do. The Lover will remove all of the noise, the ego, the self criticism, the assumptions, the stress, the cliches, the bad habits. 

Perhaps most people already solve problems like this. Unfortunately my brain is held together with bits of old string and rusty nails so it was a revelation to me.

I’m trying to keep these stories short and this is a very basic description of the book. If you’re interested in the idea we can explore it further in the comments below.